The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) was inundated with filings related to net neutrality as the deadline for public comment passed earlier this week. Opinions on both sides of the net neutrality debate are passionate, and many are in direct conflict with one another.
The FCC now faces the challenge of trying to develop a formal set of net neutrality guidelines that address the various concerns–a Herculean task. Let’s examine some of the concerns and opinions the FCC has received.
RIAA / MPAA
The Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America have an established love-hate relationship with the Internet. Perhaps more hate-hate. The recording and motion picture industries are still struggling to find their footing and adapt to a world where MP3’s replaced CD’s, and where streaming movies are replacing DVD’s.
Dating back to the early days of Napster, the RIAA and MPAA have lobbied for legislation and leveraged the court system to combat online piracy. In its filing on net neutrality with the FCC, the RIAA wrote “we encourage the FCC to stay its course and explicitly support, encourage, and endorse ISP efforts to fight piracy.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is urging individuals to join its petition to convince the FCC to remove language from the proposed net neutrality guidelines which provide a legal loophole for the entertainment industry to “hijack the Internet.”
In its comments filed with the FCC, the EFF states “EFF is also concerned that content-based discrimination may be looming on the horizon. The entertainment industry, for example, has been pressing ISPs to implement network-based measures to address the problem of online copyright infringement.7 Experience suggests that these technologies are likely to be overbroad, ineffective, expensive, and impede innovation.”
The OIC (Open Internet Coalition) is an alliance comprised of a diverse collection of entities including Google, eBay, Twitter, Facebook, and more. The OIC Web site contains links to opinions and filings from many of the member organizations.
In its own filing on net neutrality with the FCC, the OIC says “The adoption of a simple, strong, nondiscrimination rule, subject to reasonable network management, strikes an appropriate balanced framework that will benefit all stakeholders in the Internet ecosystem.”
The document goes on to support the EFF position cautioning against specific language for the RIAA / MPAA, stating “Broadband Internet access providers will have the flexibility under the proposed non-discrimination rule to block unlawful content without a complicated and unnecessary content-regulation regime, as currently proposed in the definition of “Reasonable Network Management”.
Skype is a member of the OIC. In its filing with the FCC, though, Skype expressed additional concerns related more specifically to the issues it has faced trying to provide VoIP (Voice over IP) services over wireless provider broadband networks.
Skype acknowledges that wireless broadband services face unique data consumption issues, but cautions the FCC not to exempt from, or provide other special treatment for wireless broadband within the net neutrality guidelines. “As wireless broadband connections become more popular and ubiquitous, and with the rise of smartphones, a growing number of consumers are subscribing to wireless broadband connections. These consumers increasingly expect similar Internet experiences across all broadband connections.”
Of course, the wireless providers have a different point of view. The CTIA, also referred to as The Wireless Association, asserts that net neutrality is unnecessary for wireless broadband.
In its press release regarding the FCC filing, the CTIA states “Quite simply, we believe that these rules are inappropriate for wireless broadband networks and unnecessary to ensure that wireless consumers continue to enjoy the open Internet. All elements of the wireless ecosystem are flourishing. As Americans continue to adopt mobile broadband at a rapid pace, our members are investing billions of dollars every year to deliver wireless Internet across the country. This is a model that is working for consumers and regulation is not needed.”
The Work is Just Begun
The initial period for comments and opinions has ended, but the FCC will now be accepting replies and rebuttals through March 5 before moving forward with trying to establish a net neutrality framework that finds a balance to address all expectations and concerns.
Like many government organizations, the FCC has way more responsibility than power. The organization is saddled with accountability and oversight spanning a range of technologies and industries that make up the communications infrastructure of the United States, but when push comes to shove its authority to actually impose guidelines or restrictions has been questioned.
The backlash against the FCC pursuit of net neutrality rules from Republican politicians and major corporations like Comcast and AT&T seems over the top. The FCC is simply trying to adapt and evolve to fulfill its obligations in a quickly-changing communications landscape.
While FCC chairman Julius Genachowski did issue a draft framework as a starting point, the FCC is not attempting to impose draconian rule over how these entities run their businesses. All parties have been welcomed to suggest ideas, express concerns, and otherwise contribute to the formation of a set of rules that enable the FCC to perform its duties while ensuring fairness for consumers, and a level playing field for providers.
Tony Bradley tweets as @PCSecurityNews, and can be contacted at his Facebook page.