FCC Proposals Finding Scant Support from ISPs, Wireless Carriers

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2010-12-02 Print this article Print


As for network management, Genachowski reiterated that ISPs cannot outright ban or slow down Websites or applications using a lot of bandwidth-or for any other reason, for that matter. However, he did support a usage-based pricing model that would charge users extra for exceeding bandwidth limits. Comcast has been capping residential broadband usage to 250 GB since 2008, and wireless providers such as Verizon and AT&T have recently rolled out tiered pricing and metered data-usage plans.  

However, Genachowski muddied the network-management question by suggesting that ISPs can do "reasonable network management" to deal with traffic that is "harmful to the network or unwanted by users," such as viruses and or graphic sexual content, or to "address the effects of congestion." In other words, banning bandwidth-hogs outright is unreasonable, but monitoring and adjusting bandwidth available to those applications during peak usage times would be allowed. 

Despite his previous stance that it didn't "make sense to have one Internet when your laptop is plugged into a wall and another when accessing the Internet through a wireless modem," Genachowski appears to have backed off wireless carriers in the new proposal. Instead, the FCC would "closely monitor the development of the mobile broadband market and be prepared to step in to further address anti-competitive and anti-consumer conduct as appropriate," he said.  

Wireless carriers had argued that fixed and mobile broadband networks can't be regulated in the same manner because they are fundamentally different. 

Under the new plan, the FCC would require wireless carriers to be transparent and disclose "network management practices" and to commit to a basic no-blocking rule for competing Websites or applications, such as cell phone VoIP services.  

The joint net neutrality proposal pitched by Google and Verizon over the summer only required transparency. 

While the wireless industry trade group CTIA said it still prefers no oversight, it said the group welcomed Genachowski's acceptance of the differences between markets. However, any new rules adopted for the wireless industry should be reviewed again in two years, the group said. 

Net neutrality is not just relevant to the United States; the Europe Union is concerned about it as well. The European Commission opened a consultation into net neutrality in June. Content creators, such as Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and eBay, have largely supported net neutrality. ISPs, namely Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, have generally not, seeing potential new revenue streams based on striking deals to offer a "fast lane" to preferred-read, "paid"-content.


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