Monday, April 21, 2008

FCC Chairman Testifies on Network Management

There is not an urgent need for any additional regulations for protecting consumer access to Internet content, said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, speaking before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Instead, Martin advocates enforcing current regulations and principles.

Regarding network management practices by Comcast or other ISPs, Martin outlined several criteria that the FCC should consider:

  • First, rules should only protect user's access to legal content. The sharing of illegal content, such as child pornography or content that does not have the appropriate copyright, is not protected by FCC principles. Similarly, applications that are intended to harm the network are not protected.

  • Second, the FCC should consider whether the network service provider adequately disclosed its network management practices. A hallmark of whether something is reasonable is whether an operator is willing to disclose fully and exactly what they are doing. Adequate disclosure of the particular traffic management tools and techniques -- not only to consumers but also to the designers of various applications and entrepreneurs -- is critical. Application designers need to understand what will and will not work on a particular network. For example, does an application developer know that the operator may actually insert reset packets during a session masking the network operator's identity? Consumers must be fully informed about the exact nature of the service they are purchasing and any potential limitations associated with that service. For example, has the consumer been informed that certain applications used to watch video will not work properly
    when there is high congestion?

  • Finally, the FCC should consider whether the network management technique arbitrarily blocks or degrades a particular application. Is the network management practice selectively identifying particular applications or content for differential treatment?