WASHINGTON, September 21, 2014 – At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, critics of net neutrality warned against the negative impacts of internet regulation while supporters of net neutrality said that practices by major communications demonstrated the need for such protections.
Both former Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell and economist Jeffrey Eisenach said that antitrust and consumer protection laws have been enough to protect of both technology companies and consumers. They also said that public utility regulation under Title II of the Communications Act would negatively impact investment. Both cited prosperity under deregulation as a key reason for avoiding greater government oversight of the internet.
Answering senators’ questions about previous widespread anti-competitive behavior, Eisenach downplayed accusations, saying that the core complaints have not been born out. He said that Netflix allegations against Comcast and Verizon Communications throttling data had been proved false by information found in the video streaming company’s August filing with the FCC.
Among the proponents of stronger net neutrality rules on the panel was Brad Burnham, who previously worked for AT&T in sales and marketing, but is currently a managing partner at a ventures company investing in internet applications like Tumblr and Kickstarter. He said greater regulatory oversight requires Title II reclassification. He said that internet service providers have begun to deploy “deep packet inspection” of the applications and services consumers are using on their network.
Nuala O’Connor, CEO of the non-profit Center for Democracy and Technology, took a less extreme path, urging the agency to consider available regulatory options, including Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, or Title II, or something entirely different.
An additional witness in support of net neutrality was Ruth Livier, a writer, independent producer and actress. Livier, who said that the traditional media landscape did not give the pilot for bicultural dramedy about a modern Latina, said that net neutrality was a civil right. Because of an open internet, Livier was instead able to turn that TV pilot into the web series www.Ylse.net in 2008. She said it was vital to keep the internet “open and free of gatekeepers.”