A new federal report cautions Congress on developing or implementing any regulations regarding the hot-button issue of ‘Net Neutrality, which has generated heated debate between two factions concerned about the future of the Internet.
Report, released Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission, offers support for anti-Net Neutrality advocates, who claim there is no need for a government mandate requiring that all Web users and Web sites be guaranteed equal broadband service at an equal price.
“This report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving, dynamic industry of broadband Internet ac-cess, which generally is moving toward more – not less – competition,” FTC chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras said in a state-ment. “In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area.”
Report goes on to identify guiding principles for policy makers to consider when weighing any potential action.
The pro-Net Neutrality faction has argued that without a mandate, broadband service providers will be able to discriminate by speeding access to sites the providers may have a deal with while either slowing or denying access to other sites. Also, consumers and content providers alike will be unfairly forced to pay different rates, according to this view, which ultimately predicts dimin-ishing competition unless Congress or the Federal Communications Commission intervenes. The FCC is still collecting and evaluating public commentary on whether it should take action.
But as the report points out, “Certain conduct and business arrangements that broadband providers may pursue, including data prioritization, exclusive deals and vertical integration into online content and applications, can benefit consumers.
“The primary reason for caution is simply that we do not know what the net effects of potential conduct by broadband provid-ers will be on all consumers, including, among other things, the prices that consumers may pay for Internet access, the quality of Internet access and other services that will be offered, and the choices of content and applications that may be available to con-sumers in the marketplace.”
Broadband service providers hailed the report.
“Verizon supports an open Internet, and we are proud to offer our customers high-speed access to the services they want,” Verizon exec veep for public affairs Tom Tauke said. “The Federal Trade Commission report confirms that there is no problem to fix. Proposals to impose new regulation actually threaten further advancements in broadband Internet connections.”
Public Knowledge, a nonprofit that favors Net Neutrality, said it agrees “with one of the report’s underlying conclusions that more competition is needed in the broadband industry. We hope one day to see such competition develop. However, the report falls far short in its analysis of a competitive market and the related issue of Net Neutrality. Despite the fervent wishes of the FTC staff, there is not a competitive market for high-speed Internet services. New technologies, particularly wireless technologies, are not soon going to have the same robust qualities or market penetration as the duopoly cable and telephone-company services.”