US Acts To Preserve Internet Neutrality; European Debate Heats Up24/09/2009 by Liza Porteus Viana for Intellectual Property Watch 1 CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.As the United States is moving to ensure that internet (net) neutrality is preserved in that country, some are hoping other regions of the world will take notice, particularly the European Union. The US Federal Communications Commission this week moved to create formal net neutrality rules that would ban internet service providers (ISPs) from selectively slowing or blocking altogether certain Web content or applications.New FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski – who was responsible for crafting President Obama’s technology platform during the presidential campaign – repeated his agency’s commitment to four open internet principles affirming that consumers be able to access lawful internet content, applications and services of their choosing, as well as attach various devices to the network.But Genachowski also proposed two more principles: preventing ISPs from discriminating against certain internet content or applications, while still giving them room for “reasonable” network management; and ensuring that ISPs are transparent about how they manage their network.This move is being cheered by many open internet and consumer groups.“His proposal is simple, straightforward and gets the job done,” Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press, a member of the Open Internet Coalition (OIC), told reporters during a conference call this week on Genachowski’s plan. “This is a pivotal moment for the future of the internet.”Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn sought to fend off any concern that more intervention by government would be detrimental to the industry. “Let’s be clear here – net neutrality rules will not be radical government intervention – they will not deter investment,” Sohn added. “This is going to start a whole new area of growth.”But with the US economy still in desperate need of a lift, the perceived economic implications seem to be resonating. National Association of Manufacturers’ director of technology policy, Marc-Anthony Signorino, said even though manufacturers rely on a robust internet, his group is concerned the rules could discourage investment, expansion, and research and development by network equipment companies, applications and content firms, broadband network builders and other high-tech firms.“Our future economic growth depends on the ability of businesses and individuals to easily secure robust broadband services, not impeded by burdensome regulations,” Signorino said.Net neutrality advocates for years have pushed the US government to enact stricter requirements to ensure consumers can access to content they want and that competition is not stifled by incumbent operators. Phone companies and cable operators have generally opposed such requirements. AT&T and Verizon have accepted the four existing FCC principles as applied to wired networks, but Genachowski’s plan to also apply those principles to wireless networks will be more problematic.AT&T said it would consider endorsing the additional anti-discrimination principle laid out by Genachowski, “despite any compelling evidence of abuses that need correction,” and that transparency is no problem, “as long as such requirements are reasonable.”But when it comes to wireless services, “American consumers enjoy the broadest array of innovative services and devices, the highest usage levels, the lowest prices, and the most competitive choices of any wireless market in the world,” AT&T said. “We would thus be very disappointed if it [the FCC] has already drawn a conclusion to regulate wireless services despite the absence of any compelling evidence of problems or abuse that would warrant government intervention.”The FCC has launched a website, www.openinternet.gov, to encourage public participation in the debate. The agency will begin codifying the six principles at its October meeting. Comcast – a company that has come under heavy fire for its network management practices – is urging the agency to move slowly.“Let’s remember there can be no doubt that the internet has enjoyed immense growth even as these debates have gone on,” Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen wrote in a blog post. “It will be incredibly important for the agency to review the data to determine whether there are actual and substantial problems that may require rules.”European Union Forges AheadMeanwhile, the European Union continues to negotiate a telecommunications package that may go in the opposite direction. This package could allow ISPs to intentionally speed up or slow down traffic based on which service and application is used. A decision is expected by the end of November. Another point of contention is an amendment that says no one should be barred from the internet unless the matter is first examined in court. That is in direct response to France’s HADOPI “three strikes” proposals – that would penalise repeat copyright infringers by cutting off their Internet access. The French National Assembly voted Tuesday to approve the law, struck down as unconstitutional earlier this year.Rick Whitt, Washington telecom counsel for Google, noted that although each country may have its own competition regime, “open internet is what you’re trying to create.” He is “very concerned” by moves made overseas in recent years – such as Germany’s granting of a “regulatory holiday” for Deutsche Telekom to keep competition out of the market until the company recoups the cost of building out its fibre optic network.“I’m hopeful this is going to be a more positive precedent for an open internet,” Whitt said of the US net neutrality move.“I think it is important that the US, as a proponent of open markets for speech and commerce on the internet, sets this example and creates this marketplace that has these characteristics,” Scott added.La Quadrature du Net, which is advocating for net neutrality to be protected, will insist on a public debate and push European lawmakers to revise any anti-neutrality provisions and “guarantee that this principle will be respected in the EU,” said spokesman Jérémie Zimmerman. LQDN is encouraging EU citizens and groups to sign an open letter to EU officials encouraging a free and open internet.As to whether the US moves will have any affect on Europe, Zimmerman told Intellectual Property Watch he is hopeful.“Inscribing the principle that no discrimination between content, service and application should be allowed to operators is the right thing to do to preserve net neutrality,” Zimmerman said. He explained that in France, all three mobile operators offer “mobile internet” that “forbids” one from using Skype or any other VoIP (voice over internet) software, or P2P (peer-to-peer) programme.“When an operator tells you what to do with the pipe he provides access to, then net neutrality is broken, which has consequences for competition, innovation and fundamental rights and freedoms,” he said.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedLiza Porteus Viana may be reached at email@example.com."US Acts To Preserve Internet Neutrality; European Debate Heats Up" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.