Uncommon Wisdom

Sep 22 2009   2:15PM GMT

FCC net neutrality proposal confuses the issue

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

Reviewing FCC Chairman Genachowski’s comments on the net neutrality process, we find that there are a number of interesting points.

  • First, the FCC is indeed proposing to apply net neutrality to wireless, which is something that’s already caused concerns among wireless providers. Wireless is the last bastion of profitability for the operators, after all.
  • Second, the FCC is making it very clear that net neutrality rights will apply only to lawful content, and in fact Genachowski specifically said it would not apply to P2P that infringes on copyright. That means that the ISPs would be free to interfere with “non-lawful” traffic.
  • Third, and perhaps most significantly, the FCC is saying that while it is important to offer managed services, which we assume means services with managed QoS, in parallel with the Internet, these can’t be allowed to compromise Internet service capacity and quality growth. This could pose the risk that the FCC might reverse its long-standing position on IPTV.

We don’t know exactly what the FCC has in mind (nor does anyone else (which likely includes the FCC!), but this announcement could create more uncertainty than clarity, which could influence U.S. providers’ investment in broadband. A Senate bill to block the order has been introduced, but it has no chance of passing. The House net neutrality bill will, according to sponsors, move forward.

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