Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FCC to Open Net Neutrality Inquiry, Seeking Public Comment

The FCC voted to open an inquiry into Net Neutrality issues, postponing any decision on whether the market for broadband services should be further regulated.

In its 2005 Internet Policy Statement, the FCC announced four principles to encourage broadband deployment and to preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet. The new inquiry seeks information on the behavior of broadband market participants, including:

  • How broadband providers are managing Internet traffic on their networks today

  • Whether providers charge different prices for different speeds or capacities of service

  • Whether FCC policies should distinguish between content providers that charge end users for access to content and those that do not

  • How consumers are affected by these practices.

The FCC is seeking public comment on whether its Policy Statement should incorporate a new principle of nondiscrimination and, if so, how would "nondiscrimination" be defined, and how would such a principle read.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin commented "Although we are not aware of any current blocking situations, the Commission remains vigilant in protecting consumers' access to content on the Internet. At the same time, I believe that it is useful for the Commission, as the expert communications agency, to collect a record about the current practices in the broadband marketplace... The Commission is ready, willing, and able to step in if necessary. We have the dual responsibilities of creating an environment that promotes infrastructure investment and broadband deployment and to ensure that consumers' access to content on the Internet is protected."

FCC Commission Michael Copps commented: "While we welcome telephone companies and cable providers competing to sell high-speed services, FCC statistics show that together these duopoly operators control some 96 percent of the residential broadband market... The more powerful and concentrated our facilities providers grow, the greater their motivation will be to close off Internet lanes and block IP byways.

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