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Public Interest Groups Urge FCC to Protect Consumers

in FCC/Mobile Broadband/Net Neutrality/Wireless by

WASHINGTON August 9, 2010 -In an effort to promote the issue of network neutrality representatives from eight of the major public interest think tanks met with officials from the Federal Communications Commission. An ex parte release gives a basic outline of the meeting which included a discussion of network neutrality along with reclassification.

Participants included representatives from the Media Access Project, Media and Democracy Coalition, New America Foundation, Public Knowledge, Free Press, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and the Center for Democracy & Technology.

They urged the FCC to classify broadband as a telecommunications service in order to protect the open internet and promote the National Broadband Plan. They argued that if the commission does not act; corporate interests will make deals which leave out consumer welfare additionally without proper authority the FCC would not be able to enforce any agreement. “Private agreements on network management, whether brokered by the Commission or not, would be meaningless without clear Commission enforcement authority.”

Additionally they felt that by separating wireless and wireline will lead to problems in the future. “The failure to adopt common principles would widen the digital divide by ensuring a different and less open experience for traditionally underserved regions and demographic groups that may more often need to access or choose to access the Internet on a mobile device.”

The group also cautioned the commission about over using the term “managed services” which is very vague. Since the term has no definitive meaning ISPs can manipulate it to their whim. “An overbroad definition and conceptualization of the proposed “managed services”

category would impact detrimentally the growth and vitality of the Internet. In fact, such over breadth would create an exception that swallows the rule. For example, managed services might consist simply of rebranded or repackaged services and applications typically delivered today over the Open Internet.”

They also deplored the concept of paid prioritization, a concept they feel is antithetical to the openness of the internet. “By definition, prioritizing some traffic in this type of data network results in degrading other traffic. Furthermore, prioritization only has value during times when such a network experiences congestion. Therefore, rules permitting such prioritization would create perverse incentives for broadband connectivity providers to delay network capacity investment in order to profit from artificial scarcity.”

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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