Microsoft, Yahoo Weigh In On FCC’s Proposed 'Open Internet' Rules

WASHINGTON, October 29, 2009 – Microsoft and Yahoo on Thursday gingerly weighed into the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rules governing internet access – otherwise known as “Net neutrality” – that were announced last week.

The two companies offered up, to, carefully crafted comments splitting the difference between the hardening battle lines between Google and AT&T.

“Yahoo! believes that all stakeholders – consumers, ISPs, online portals, Congress, the FCC and the FTC – should find a consensus on how best to ensure that Americans have access to a world-class Internet and an increasingly competitive online environment,” said Yahoo! spokeswoman Nina Blackwell. “We have modeled openness on our network – prominent examples include our new front page and cloud computing issues.”

“Microsoft supports the right of consumers to access Internet content, services, and applications of their choice and to connect any non-harmful device to their broadband connections,” said a Microsoft spokesman.

“We also believe that Congress should ensure that network operators are able to offer last mile service enhancements and tiers of service, either to consumers or to online service providers and that those enhanced offerings must not unfairly interfere with the ability of consumers to access online content, products, and services of their choice or with the ability of online providers to deliver their products to consumers over the network operator’s facilities,” the spokesman continued.

As to the FCC’s move last week – which marks the beginning of a formal phase of regulating internet access – Microsoft said, “We are reviewing the proposed rules the FCC has adopted.”

Though an original supporter of neutrality rules in 2005 and 2006, Microsoft subsequently backed off from the hard-line stance of Google and other web players. They have not been a vocal player in the debate this year.

This is a notable difference from other tech companies and carriers – such as AT&T, Google and Verizon Communications – which have received significant press coverage on the issue in recent weeks.

Under the FCC’s proposed draft rules, a broadband service provider would not be allowed to prevent users from “connecting to and using on its network the user’s choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network” or to prevent users from sending or receiving lawful content on the Internet.

The proposed rules also hold that providers cannot prevent users from running lawful applications or services. The agency is seeking comment on how it should address internet protocol-based offerings provided over networks used for broadband. Comments on the proposed rules are due on January 14 and reply comments on March 5.

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