Net neutrality battle continues apace


A posse of Republican senators has fired off a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking that he not over-regulate the internet in advance of any proven need. The concern is that Genachowski’s stated support for the concept of network neutrality will overly restrict internet service providers and inhibit broadband investment.

Sam Brownback (R-KS) and John McCain (R-AZ) are among those reported as signatory to the letter. They fear that the FCC, not the marketplace, is going to end up determining the immediate future of the internet. “When the government picks winners and losers in the marketplace, the incentive to invest disappears,” they said.

They say there have only been two disputes thus far that are related to the concept of net neutrality, and that it is a solution that is being offered before there is any evidence that there is a problem.

RBR-TVBR observation: We believe that as a guiding principle, internet access should operate much as does telephone service – where all messages are created equal and are carried to their destination without regard to their source or destination.

That said, we recognize that the internet poses far greater challenges than does phone service due to wide variations in the amount of bandwidth required for different types of communications.

The better the national broadband infrastructure highway system is, the easier it will be to cope with the challenges that underpin the net neutrality debate. The FCC is clearly aware of this, and has it in mind as it proceeds with its national broadband plan.

The idea that net neutrality is a solution searching for a problem goes back to when Ted Stevens (R-AK) was still chairing the Senate Commerce Committee. The flip side to the argument is that enshrining net neutrality in the regulatory language isn’t new regulation at all, it’s simply restating a condition that is already supposed to be in existence.

What supporters of network neutrality fear is the provision of superior service to internet content providers that can afford to pay a premium, creating a balkanized have and have-not internet that makes it harder and harder for the small entrepreneur to get access to consumers.

This debate is far from over. We’ll know more soon.