Panelists at a two-day Federal Trade Commission (FTC) workshop on broadband connectivity and competition policy debated the need for net neutrality regulation, as FTC Commissioner Jon Liebowitz suggested that the FCC’s order in the AT&T-BellSouth merger proceeding could serve “as a starting point” for an approach that protects open access to the Internet while allowing network operators to charge for premium or specialized tiers of service. Expressing disappointment at the “lack of constructive public debate” on net neutrality, FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras urged both sides at the start of the workshop to listen carefully to each other, noting there is “not enough acknowledgement that this is a tough issue that poses risks in all directions.” Predictably, there was much lively debate between panelists who believe the net neutrality conditions agreed to by AT&T and BellSouth should be adopted as industry-wide policy and others who warn that any regulation of the Internet or Internet service providers would harm competition. While agreeing that AT&T and BellSouth’s commitments on net neutrality constitute “a good start,” Skype senior director Chris Libertelli warned, nevertheless, that if our “policy becomes too myopic, we risk building an Internet bridge to nowhere.” Asserting that net neutrality “has never been clearly defined,” Robert Pepper of Cisco Systems charged that the AT&T-BellSouth merger condition is “actually very anticonsumer” as it could “prevent higher-quality services that people said they would like to pay for.” A better approach, according to Pepper, is to address anti-competitive behavior on a case-by-case basis with both the FCC and the FTC acting in an oversight rather than a regulatory capacity.
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FTC panelists debate net neutrality and broadband competition
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
- February 16 2007
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Senior Patent Counsel
Royal DSM NV