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Net neutrality: volume rising, sanity in short supply

Net neutrality: will it really work against mobile broadband profitability?

Posted By TelecomTV One , 03 June 2010 | 0 Comments | (0)
Tags: net neutrality Mobile Broadband Regulation FCC

In the US the war of words over net neutrality seems to have morphed into something unrecognisable, so on TelecomTV last week, we tried to bring the issue back to earth. By Ian Scales.

Confused? You will be. The rhetoric in the US over the neutrality issue is now going nuclear, with the latest contribution from the anti-neutrality side being that the Obama administration is plotting to "take over the Internet" and the FCC's recent efforts to 'reclassify' the net as a telecoms (rather than as an information) service is all part of this conspiracy.

That's according to the increasingly vociferous US front group, Americans for Prosperity, which has been funded by the big telcos to the tune of $1.4 million to mount an ad campaign against neutrality.

Americans for Prosperity are brilliant exponents of the big lie (they were behind the 'death tax' thread in the debate around US healthcare) and they're up to their old 'black is white' tricks again.

Sample from the website: "The wave of new regulations proposed by the FCC amounts to nothing less than a Washington takeover of the Internet"; and... "If recently attempted 'net neutrality' regulations -- struck down unanimously by the D.C. Circuit Court -- were akin to a declaration of war on real Internet freedom, then Chairman Genachowski's new call for reclassification qualifies as nuclear escalation. The FCC wants to reduce the Internet to an old-fashioned government-regulated utility."

So clearly a reasoned debate on the real issues is what's needed and that's what we set out to provide last week with our latest Main Agenda Interactive session.

 

Part 1: Under a truly neutral system, are telcos getting the return on investment they should be getting?

 

Part 2: Regulation and network management - is a code of practice the answer?

 

Part 3 - Neutrality rules are somewhat inevitable, but what are the principles underpinning the regulation of applications?



We set up a live debate to at least unearth the real issues (probably reaching an agreed conclusion was just a tad ambitious) and we decided it was important to bring out all the arguments by representing as broad a sweep of opinion as possible on the panel.

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On what we styled as the far left we had a doctrinaire pro-neutrality proponent (me); we had a centre-left representative ('pro-neutrality with sensible caveats'), a centre right voice (for an open network but emphasising the need for technical management) and we had a right winger (apologies Stephen, it's just in this narrow area) who is in favour of upstream charging because it's simply a better model.

We weren't there to accentuate what we disagreed on, but to see if we could identify where we didn't disagree too much - that way might (just might) lie sanity and an eventual solution for the entire industry.

The one thing our panel did agree on was that the sort of ridiculous anti-neutrality stuff currently being peddled is now clouding the argument. And reasoned argument is needed more urgently than ever.

The fact is that net neutrality is now a central issue in the global industry and any policy change instigated in the US will ripple through to the other jurisdictions.

So the entire Internet and communications ecosystem must begin to understand what sort of neutrality is being developed by the FCC and what it might mean in terms of both long-term business models and short-term technical fixes in the network. For instance, how viable and useful will tiered services be for mobile broadband? Will they be possible at all, and if they are, how should they be implemented?

Many in the industry believe that urgent technical fixes will be needed to cope with the 'data deluge' brought on by the sudden rise of the smartphone. If and until the devilish detail in any neutrality policy is shaped and then thought through, this issue and many more will remain a known unknown and it will be difficult to implement new schemes and management practices which may run counter to neutrality policies.

We hope we've at least laid out some of the arguments. We've split our Main Agenda Interactive discussion into three parts.

 

Watch the videos!

 

Part 1: Under a truly neutral system, are telcos getting the return on investment they should be getting?

 

Part 2: Regulation and network management - is a code of practice the answer?

 

Part 3 - Neutrality rules are somewhat inevitable, but what are the principles underpinning the regulation of applications?

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