US telecoms, Internet giants battle the FCC

The US policy debate on net neutrality does not immediately affect Israel’s primary Internet providers, Bezeq and Hot.

Internet obsession (photo credit: Illustrative photo)
Internet obsession
(photo credit: Illustrative photo)
US communications providers Comcast and AT&T are staging a war against the regulator’s national broadband plan to control all Internet service in the US and create sweeping net neutrality regulations by the year 2020.
The comment period for all interested parties with a vested interest in the United States Federal Communications Commission legislation for the National Broadband Plan was set to commence on April 8, though the hearings were unexpectedly extended three weeks until April 29, due to a ruling from a judicial panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. The panel unanimously ruled in favor of Comcast, protecting the cable company’s policy against a 2008 FCC order to slow bandwidth for broadband users using an online file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent.
The pro-business ruling strikes hard against the FCC’s regulation momentum for presenting the legislation bill to Congress for debate and voting in 2010.
The US policy debate on net neutrality does not immediately affect Israel’s primary Internet providers, Bezeq and Hot, nor other local Internet companies, David Kaplan, an analyst at Barclays Capital in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Sunday. The potential of the same debate occurring in the Knesset would likely take place in the future, he said, though in the meantime, companies are waiting to see what will happen with the net neutrality debate in the US.
 “I do believe that the Israeli regulatory bodies, the Internet providers and the local Internet companies are watching the debate with great interest,” Kaplan said. “It will eventually be a policy debate in Israel. The question will be what the policy is and how the costs will in the future be shared… It really is an interesting discussion, and that is why it is taking place all over the world.”
In the US, AT&T senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, Jim Cicconi added to the debate in an April 26 blog entry on the company’s Web site accusing advocates of the National Broadband Plan of embellishing the need for regulation and failing to identify the real reasons that would make net-neutrality rules essential.
“Over and over again, we hear [supporters] cite the single instance where the FCC felt compelled to take action: namely, the Comcast-BitTorrent case,” he said. “But one example does not a compelling case make. Indeed, thanks to the DC Circuit, the Comcast case ironically now stands for the opposite proposition: namely, that government must have compelling reasons if it’s going to substitute its judgment for that of the free market, and when it acts it must do so only with clear legislative authority.”
The three-member panel ruled that the FCC does not have the legal authority to regulate Comcast’s network-management practices and force Comcast to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.
“Although the actions the commission takes, or fails to take, in this proceeding will have far-reaching consequences for the open Internet, the record reveals often sharp disagreement regarding the need for, and appropriate nature of, regulation as a means to preserve the open Internet,” stated the judicial filing.
Originally released March 16, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan aims to create new measured standards for how cable companies supply TV and Internet services to their customers. The proposed regulations would attempt to classify Internet service in the US as a telecom service rather than an information service and call for the shaping of Internet provider’s bandwidth equally for domestic consumers.
The change in classification is one of the main elements of the proposed FCC plan that aims to spread affordable, high-speed 100-mbps broadband access throughout the US by 2020, as part of the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of February 2009.
Advocates of equal and measured public access to the Internet,Microsoft and Google, are lobbying for strong and measured FCCregulation against the telecommunication companies to open thehigh-speed paths of the Internet from telecommunication companies suchas Comcast.
Microsoft admitted during the recent April FCC hearings on the issuethat the company has a vested interest in ensuring that its numerousWeb applications and services are delivered to their domestic consumerswithout encountering interference from an Internet service provider(ISP) such as Comcast.
The Seattle-based software company also endorsed the FCC’s proposal toadd a stipulation mandating that ISPs disclose how they manage thetraffic on their networks.
With the emergence of voice-calling technologies and new deliverysystems for distribution of copyrighted content, companies such asMicrosoft, Skype and Google stand to lose bandwidth from Comcast andAT&T.