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Posted at 3:13 PM ET, 12/20/2010

Former FCC chief counsel places bets on net neutrality success

By Cecilia Kang

Former Federal Communications Commission chief counsel Bruce Gottleib is putting his bets on net neutrality successfully passing a vote on Tuesday, with some minor changes to win the support of otherwise skeptical Democrats at the commission.

Gottlieb, now general counsel at The Atlantic Media Co., wrote in a National Journal op-ed Monday that even though the proposal is "disliked by the right and left," he predicts it will pass with three votes for the policy.

Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn have said they favor net neutrality rules. But they say there are still weaknesses in the proposal by Chairman Julius Genachowski. Both commissioners said the rules need to cover wireless networks more broadly than a draft proposal did. And they have expressed concern over what some view as a loophole that would allow Internet service providers such as Comcast and AT&T to charge companies for priority traffic on their networks.

Sources familiar with discussions at the FCC said the proposed rules have been tweaked to make it harder for carriers to charge for faster delivery of content -- called paid priority. And talks leading up to Tuesday's vote are focused on how wireless networks would be covered by rules. Initial draft rules prohibited wireless carriers from blocking voice and video telephony applications. Sources said commissioners were talking about broadening the types of applications that would be protected by the agency. The rules may also prohibit any "unreasonable" wireless network management that would allow a carrier to unfairly discriminate against certain applications.

Gottleib, who served as a senior adviser to Copps before his position with Genachowski, said the "order will be a somewhat stronger flavor of net neutrality than it would have been if the Dems hadn’t kicked up a fuss."

But what after the vote? Telecom industry experts expect companies to sue the FCC, asserting that the agency doesn't have the authority to introduce broadband regulation.

And Republican House members will probably introduce legislation to overturn the FCC's decision, they say.

"The vote on Tuesday will probably be described as providing closure on a difficult 2010 for the FCC," Gottleib wrote. "But this moment of repose is not likely to outlast many New Year’s resolutions."

related stories:
Sen. Hutchison moves to block funds to FCC over net neutrality

Stay tuned: FCC decision to resolve questions over Internet TV access

By Cecilia Kang  | December 20, 2010; 3:13 PM ET
Categories:  FCC, Net Neutrality  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: AT&T to buy spectrum for Qualcomm's Flo TV
Next: Net neutrality rules poised to win FCC approval


Ah, yes. Bruce Gottlieb. The FCC advisor who became visibly angry when I explained to him the economical service plans which my ISP's customers like best and choose most often. He did not want us to offer those plans. He wanted to force us, via regulation, to offer plans that were more expensive and slower.

In short, he was in favor of anti-consumer "network neutrality" regulation. Let's hope that this regulation is quickly nullified by Congress and/or overturned by the courts.

If they;re not, they will pull the plug on innovation and competition.

To understand why, you need to understand what the rules, drafted by lobbyists employed by Google, will do if they stick (and we can hope they won't). They are billed as "net neutrality" regulations, but as with many things in DC the name is a sham; they are not at all neutral. They will prevent Internet providers from selling services which new startups will need to challenge Google's multiple Internet monopolies. They'll make it more costly to provide Internet access - a cost that will be passed on to customers. They'll prevent ISPs from maintaining a high quality of service by managing traffic on their network to prevent bandwidth hogging. They'll deter investment - who wants to invest in a regulated industry? They'll hinder innovation by requiring network innovators to ask, "Mother may I?" before trying new business models or new networking techniques. And they'll limit competition. You'll have fewer choices of broadband providers, because the rules will raise barriers to new entrants.

Instead of passing rules as a reward to a large campaign contributor (Google, which gave nearly $1M to Obama), the FCC should promote competition. But alas, it has fallen prey to politics and regulatory capture, and is being used as an agent of political payback. This is not a proper role for what is supposed to be an independent, apolitical expert agency.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | December 20, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

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