End of Net Neutrality? The Real Battle is Just Beginning

April 6, 2010

Given that the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals today smacked down the FCC’s ham-handed attempt to impose net neutrality rules on Comcast from a couple years ago, it’s no surprise that many folks are proclaiming this to be the end of net neutrality and a blow to the Obama administration’s telecom plans.

They should know better.

All this does is mark the start of the real battle for not just net neutrality, but for control over matters broadband and beyond.

In reality, today’s decision is probably a somewhat welcome one for the Julius Genachowski-led FCC and the Obama telecom troops, since it officially removes the taint of questionable decisions led by former FCC chairman Kevin Martin from the net neutrality debate. Martin, the friend of big telcos like AT&T and Verizon, ostensibly presided over the implementation of the net neutrality “principles” back in 2005 and then the Comcast case itself. But being by all accounts a very smart guy, Martin is probably laughing out loud somewhere now, knowing that his tactics and decisions probably got the end goal he and his backers truly wanted — mass confusion around net neutrality and the FCC’s role in adjucating it.

Though we’ve sort of been off the policy beat lately, I remember asking lots of insiders about the Comcast decision after it was initially passed, and even the most pro-net neutrality types all thought it would eventually be overturned like it was today. “Good result, bad process” was the way one net neut proponent summed up the original FCC ruling. Good call.

But since Obama’s election, Genachowski and other administration types have been busy looking well beyond the Comcast case, putting in motion not only a separate net neutrality proceeding, but also developing the recently released national broadband plan, which if executed as described will go a long ways toward making net neutrality principles part of everyday regulatory practices — not by trying to define the slippery idea of net neutrality itself but by implementing a raft of actual measurable, enforceable things like truth in broadband-speed advertising and transparency in network management practices.

Should the broadband plan’s metrics-based ideas come to pass, network service providers would have a hard time hiding the kind of dubious practices that got Comcast in hot water in the first place. And just like with the health care bill, Obama and the Democrats probably have all the votes they need right now to pass new net neutrality regulations should they so desire — in fact insiders we have talked to in the big telco camps fully expect that some sort of net neutrality regulation will appear before the end of the year. But that also means they’re gearing up to fight it, if for no other reason than to keep the nuns safe from Google.

We digress. Clearly there is much more still to happen, and we’ll be watching while it does. But the end of net neutrality? In reality, a much bigger battle for the ultimate control of the nation’s networks has just begun.

The Sidecut Editorial Calendar

April 29, 2008

As of this writing, we are projecting four Sidecut Reports will be completed in this calendar year, with the first one, “Xohm or Go Home: Why 2008 Is WiMax’s Breakout Year in the U.S. — Or Else!” all ready for your credit card on our ordering page.

The WiMax report is the first in our “Wireless Broadband” coverage category. For the purchase price of $149.95, you not only get the full report PDF, you also get a yearly subscription for report updates and news flashes on that topic area for the full calendar year.

Reports will be issued in the following categories as they are completed:

PUBLIC POLICY — Report on “Network Neutrality,” due out by early June, 2008.

INTERNET VIDEO INFRASTRUCTURE — Report due out late Q2 2008.

ADVANCED TELEPHONY — Report due out Q3 2008.

For editorial calendar information or report structure, send me an email to kaps at sidecutreports.com.

David Clark: A Net Neutrality Voice of Reason

February 25, 2008

I didn’t get to listen to all of the FCC’s Broadband Network Management Practices forum from Harvard today, but I did get to hear one excellent presentation from Internet legend David Clark, a technologist who offered some great insights on network management and bandwidth pricing — while also wondering out loud if the whole network neutrality discussion couldn’t be conducted with just a tad more civility.

“I would plead with all the actors [in the debate] that when they look over the fence, don’t say ‘enemy’ but say ‘partner,’ ” said Clark at the opening of his remarks, reasoning that if access providers and content creators work better together, there might be hope for a better Internet for all in the future. Not a bad sentiment to embrace as the new season of network neutrality debates kicks off.

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