Wireless Industry Official, Consumer Advocate Face Off On Net Neutrality

FCC, Net Neutrality, Wireless December 15th, 2009

, Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2009 – A representative from a wireless industry focused trade association and a co-founder of a consumer advocate group faced off Tuesday on the heated topic about whether the Federal Communications Commission should regulate Internet access to support Net neutrality or open Internet principles.

CTIA-The Wireless Association Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Chris Guttman-McCabe and Public Knowledge’s President & Co-founder Gigi Sohn said they agree Internet service providers should be transparent, provide disclosure to consumers and other companies as to how they are running their businesses, and they should have the ability to manage their networks reasonably.

However, the agreement ended there. Guttman-McCabe said the FCC hasn’t made a good case for why the proposed regulations should exist. He warned of more harm and unintended consequences while currently so much is going right in the internet space.

Sohn, on the other hand, argued that the last four years of “no mans land,” or no official regulation on Net neutrality principles, “hasn’t benefited anyone” but added that the Internet is currently “working really well.” Sohn doesn’t think ISPs should be able to pick winners and losers. According to Sohn, the proposed Net neutrality rules are “very narrow.”

“As I said in the debate, if these rules are enacted, their impact would go well beyond what the FCC has envisioned – fundamentally changing the wireless industry in a negative way,” Guttman-McCabe said following the debate.

CTIA argues that the FCC “should recognize the unique aspects of wireless that militate against applying wireline net neutrality rules to a wireless world. Without the ability to adapt, evolve, and respond to the changing wireless environment through reasonable network management, a consumer’s intensive network use can harm all other users in the vicinity.”

“Wireless carriers actively manage their networks to both ensure the highest-quality Internet experience for all consumers – not only the few who demand inordinate amounts of bandwidth and capacity – and to ensure that services that are time-sensitive are given the resources to function properly,” said CTIA in a statement. CTIA warns that the regulation of one area — such as broadband Internet access providers — will impact all parts of the “interdependent wireless ecosystem.”

Sohn said she is concerned that the FCC’s current definition of reasonable network management is too “loose goosey.” She doesn’t want large wireless carriers to be able to prioritize data. Sohn said “the question is no longer whether we will have Net neutrality regulation” but how it can be done right in a way that protects consumers.

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