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Takeaways from FCC Decision on Reasonable Network Management

What did we learn from today's FCC action on the FreePress-Comcast dispute? 

First, there remains no need for passage of net neutrality legislation, as an FCC majority showed that there is an oversight process in place and readily available to address anyone's concerns about maintaining consumers' right to "access the lawful Internet content of their choice."  

Second, the absence of any fine against Comcast, the lack of any finding of anti-competitive intent by Comcast, and the FCC acceptance of Comcast's self-imposed deadline to address the FCC's concerns --speaks volumes

  • Basically, the FCC is affirming the direction and actions that Comcast already has undertaken on its own, in dramatically increasing its terms-of-service disclosure and migrating to a protocol-agnostic network management technique by year end.    

Third, an enforcement process is the appropriate mechanism for determining what is "reasonable network management," not a regulatory rule or legislation.

  • One size does not fit all. The dynamic, real-time, diverse nature of Internet networks demand humility and flexibility from regulators, in order to allow network engineers on the front lines manage quality of service; cope with exploding and unpredictable spikes in demand; and innovate to be able to best handle ever-changing bandwidth conditions.
  • What is "reasonable" depends entirely on the unique facts of any given case, network, or company; the context of the alleged incident; and any mitigating factors.
  • Trying to define what "reasonable" is in advance, is as subjective and elusive as trying to define what "indecent" is.     

Fourth, transparency is important. 

  • Broadband providers maintain the freedom to manage their networks and change the price or terms of their service, but have the obligation to transparently disclose to broadband consumers what they are, and are not getting, for their money. 

Fifth, existing U.S. Internet policy in law is the best Internet policy: " preserve the vibrant and competitive free market...Internet...unfettered by Federal or State regulation." 

  • Encouraging Internet collaboration, mediation, and arbitration is vastly superior to net regulation.  

Finally, the word 'open' in the context of the Internet is quickly ceasing to have any practical meaning.

  • Neutralists have twisted the traditional free market meaning of 'open' -- meaning no barriers to entry -- to now mean almost the exact opposite -- Neutralists define 'open' as common-carrier economically regulated, and/or communally-owned/re-distributionist.
  • This means that while everyone uses the word 'open,' there is little real agreement on the term, because it means completely different things to each side.

Bottom line: When the dust settles and the neutralism movement rests their arm from patting itself repeatedly on the back, they will realize that they once again they have failed in getting the Government to reverse its long standing free-market Internet policy in favor of their vision of Big Government control of the Internet.