Many of the technology and digital communication industry's biggest players announced the formation of the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG or TAG), which will work together to find consensus on issues relating to net neutrality. The organization, represented by AT&T, Verizon, Microsoft, Google, Intel and others, will examine broadband network management practices or other related technical issues that can affect users' Internet experience, including the impact to and from applications, content and devices that utilize the Internet.
With adjunct professor Dale Hatfield of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the group announced it would continue to develop the operational and organization structure of the TAG over the coming weeks. Hatfield is a former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chief technologist. Specifically, BITAG said it wants to assess specific functions for the organization, including promoting outreach within the Internet technical community, identifying best practices by broadband providers and other entities, interpreting safe harbor practices, providing technical guidance to industry and to the public, and/or issuing advisory opinions on the technical issues germane to their mission that may underlie disputes among discrete parties.
In a joint press release, members of BITAG said the structure of the organization would be formalized in the "very near future." The group also stated its commitment to a diverse membership composed of engineers and other similar technical experts from academia, non-profit and Internet user communities as well as participating companies representing a diverse range of industry views, including broadband providers, applications developers, content developers and equipment manufacturers.
"The TAG will function as a neutral, expert technical forum and promote a greater consensus around technical practices within the Internet community," said Hatfield. "The TAG would consider a number of factors in looking at technical practices, including whether a practice is used by others in the industry; whether alternative technical approaches are available; the impact of a technical practice on other entities; and whether a technical practice is aimed at specific content, applications or companies."
Participants in the initial founding efforts for organization expressed their desire that the group would advise on technical issues, attempt to resolve disputes over network management and related issues outside of an adversarial context, and help inform federal agencies, such as the FCC, Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice in their industry oversight functions. A release noted staff from these agencies would be encouraged to observe and provide suggestions for the TAG's area of focus.
"This joint effort by industry leaders provides an exciting opportunity to address key operational challenges facing the Internet user experience," said Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technical officer of the Internet Society. "The Internet Society believes this activity is an important contribution to the ongoing global, open technical dialog and looks forward to seeing its output appropriately integrated with the work of existing Internet standards activities."