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Washington Post Editorial Calls Net Neutrality Rules Unnecessary

Editorial at The Washington Post weighed in this morning on the net neutrality debate, saying the proposed rules announced last week by the new Federal Communications Commission chairman, Julius Genachowski, goes overboard.

Editorial writers (Note: there is a wall between the newsroom, which includes me, and our opinion pages.) say Genachowski promises that stronger and broader rules for how Internet service providers can control content and technologies on the Web will be "fair, transparent, fact-based and data-driven."

"That's nice. But Mr. Genachowski failed to convincingly answer the most important question of all: Is this intervention necessary?" The Post editorial asks.

In case you were hiding under a rock last week, the FCC proposed to codify four guidelines for Internet service providers and two additional rules to ensure any legal content and applications can be accessed on the Web. The rules would prohibit network carriers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from blocking or deliberately prioritizing certain traffic in a way that favors their business interests.

The Post's editorial is getting lots of buzz -- what are your thoughts? I'll try to highlight some comments later today.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 28, 2009; 9:59 AM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
Previous: Google Reponds to AT&T Letter; Public Interest Groups Slam the Phone Giant's Claims | Next: Wireless Lobbyists Step Up Defensive Against Net Neutrality

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We are disappointed by “The FCC’s Heavy Hand”[Sept. 28 editorial] where the Washington Post uses the same old arguments against Net Neutrality that support discrimination on the Internet and would truly stifle the free flow of information, innovation, and investment online. While the Post feels that Net Neutrality rules are unnecessary and that they will hurt investment in a “vibrant and well-functioning marketplace," these concerns are misplaced and not supported by the facts.

The editorial fails to acknowledge that companies have invested billions of dollars while operating neutral networks -- either because of merger conditions or for fear of FCC imposing new rules. If carriers were able to invest while operating neutral networks in the past, there is no reason to believe putting these rules into law permanently would suddenly stifle investment. Further, ISPs have maintained huge profit margins -- many higher than the notoriously high grossing oil industry -- also while maintaining neutral networks. The real threat is that without Network Neutrality, the incumbent phone and cable companies will actually have the incentive to delay investment and profit from artificial scarcity.

The new Network Neutrality rules proposed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski come at a time when carriers now have the technology within reach that would allow them to discriminate against online content and services for financial gain. These rules are only a light regulatory touch -- something that could have been useful perhaps in the financial sector before one of the worst meltdowns in history.

While we are glad to see the Post strongly support transparent practices by ISPs, we’d like to point out that maintaining total transparency about practices that are discriminatory and anti-competitive does very little to help consumers who are trapped in a market where meaningful competition for broadband Internet access is sorely lacking. This editorial could have supported the spirit of disclosure by mentioning that The Washington Post Company also owns Cable One -- an ISP that might stand to benefit financially in a market without Network Neutrality.

Though the Post is not on board, there is overwhelming support for strong Net Neutrality rules from Congress, the Obama Administration, the public interest community, the FCC, some corporations, and the public. These supporters all recognize that Net Neutrality has been the basic rule of the road since the founding of the Internet. The principle of nondiscrimination that lies at the heart of Network Neutrality is directly responsible for all of the innovations brought by the Internet. Upholding and protecting this principle will ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for commerce, innovation and free speech. We hope the FCC moves quickly and is not distracted by the long ago discredited arguments against this crucial public interest policy.

-- Derek Turner, Research Director, Free Press

Posted by: Free_Press | September 28, 2009 6:38 PM

Not only did the Post's Rob Pegoraro make the case for Net Neutrality,,
but so have the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, San Jose Mercury and other papers around the country.

They recognize, as the Post editorial page does not, that there is no vibrant Internet access market, that there are cracks in the Internet and that Net Neutrality will preserve and protect innovation.

Art Brodsky
Public Knowledge

Posted by: artbrodsky | September 28, 2009 7:52 PM

This is an ironic reversal of the usual roles. You, as a reporter, have been essentially "cheerleading" for onerous, unnecessary regulation rather than presenting both sides of the issue as a reporter is ethically bound to do. And now the editorial page -- the one portion of the paper in which it is appropriate to express more "one sided" opinions -- presents an analysis which is not only balanced but nuanced, pointing out which portions of the FCC initiative might be worthwhile and which ones would go too far.

Cecilia, I hope that in future reporting you will show at least as much balance as the unbylined -- but obviously well informed -- writer did in that editorial.

Brett Glass
Owner and Founder
LARIAT - The world's first Wireless ISP

Posted by: squirma | September 28, 2009 10:20 PM

As a critical care doctor who sees the life-saving benefits of health IT innovations every day, I am concerned about new regulations. These policies may slow the progress we have made with TeleICU care saving over 500 lives in the State of Kansas alone. As Internet users, we want our interests protected and feel these principles are in place right now. We should be focused on making sure every American has access to broadband – and even more importantly making certain they know how relevant it is to their lives and those they cherish. Without dynamic broadband networks I am unable to bring advanced medical care to their communities, hospitals, or homes. The power of broadband-enabled health care is limitless and given the timely discourse taking place currently on health care – the FCC should focus on our shared goal of universal access. I applaud the Post for this editorial and look forward to being a continued participant in the broadband discussion.

Dr. Elizabeth Cowboy, Medical Director eCare-ICU Via Christi Health System
Chair of the TeleICU Discussion Group for American Telemedicine Association

Posted by: ercowboy | September 29, 2009 11:57 AM

My work at the Center for Connected Health is undeniably tied to broadband-enabled technology. The health IT tools available at our fingertips today are revolutionizing the way we deliver health care – while improving the quality of care for those patients who adopt and understand broadband’s promise. And that should be our focus – continuing that trend. I’m happy to see the Post urge caution here around additional regulations on the Internet. I’m for an open Internet – and there are principles in place to protect that. The focus now should be on the future potential of the Internet and innovation that will continue to improve our quality of life.

Posted by: jkvedar | September 29, 2009 1:04 PM

Dr Cowboy and jkvedar, net neutrality does not hurt broadband.

Net neutrality is a simple principle - that your ISP cannot discriminate against legal content and applications, except as needed to do network management.

It's the same as the phone company - you can call whoever you wish, or use a modem to dial whoever you wish.

Your ISP can still charge for usage, charging more for heavy users. People who download movies from Netflix can be charged for the extra utilization - just like phone companies can charge more if you make more calls.

Without net neutrality, an ISP can charge more for a given amount of access to Facebook than for the same amount of access to Amazon.

Without net neutrality, your ISP can pick and choose what web sites you can access, and how fast you can access them.

Without net neutrality, an ISP can block Netflix because THEY want to sell you video downloads. Or they can just make Netflix really, really slow - and not tell you why.

The "principles in place to protect that" ARE net neutrality - which the ISPs tried to challenge and circumvent.

The push to advocate these rules is directly tied to ISPs blocking and slowing content, blocking web sites they disagreed with politically, etc.

If this was simply something they were already doing, and planning to continue to do, they would not be squealing like this.

NOTHING in net neutrality hurts broadband implementation - in fact, it encourages it, because of the focus on utilization rather than discrimination against legal content. I have no problem with charging heavy bandwidth users more - and neither does net neutrality.

Posted by: VirginiaGal2 | September 29, 2009 6:20 PM

Dear Virginia Gal and Washington Post Readers,
From a medical services perspective, an all data is equal is potentially life threatening, for telemedicine practitioners and the distant patient we are serving:
• Without additional infrastructure existing networks face worsening traffic congestion as a result of video entertainment streams, advanced online gaming, accelerated web searching, and even remote medical service applications.
• Network unreliability and congested pipes could hinder vital sign monitoring, which could mean delay in viewing the heart wave forms. When I assist in restarting a heart from 300 miles away any delay could cost a life.
• We also handle disaster triage and treatment over these lines. In these situation assisting in the care of hundreds of patients. If we are slowed in our video or data transmission an incorrect diagnosis or treatment could be made. This means we virtually take the doctor to the patient. We are able to keep people at the site and avoid unnecessary transplant.
• When an emergency vehicle with lights and siren are traveling down our highways we in regular cars are asked to more over to the side of the road briefly. We in medical care fields request that our lifesaving advanced medicine receive a similar right of way.
Thanks for the opportunity to explain our viewpoint and those of the communities, hospitals and patients we serve. Please take a moment to view our informational video at
We are willing to come to DC to join in the discussion in person and share our results to the FCC and Congress as the areas of broadband and medical care become symbiotic.
Elizabeth Cowboy, MD, MSOD, FCCP
Medical director of eCare Via Christi Health System
Chair of the TeleICU DG ATA

Posted by: ercowboy | September 30, 2009 10:24 AM

Dr. Cowboy, you still haven't answered my question.

The proposed net neutrality rules still allow for network management - which means you and your application should be just as well off under net neutrality as you are now.

I don't see what your objection is. You need fast access. I get that. But why do you care whether you get fast access in a neutral Internet or otherwise?

Posted by: VirginiaGal2 | September 30, 2009 8:03 PM

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