At the October 13 Conservative Blogger’s Briefing at the Heritage Foundation, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell addressed the issue of net neutrality, specifically the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) upcoming initiative to regulate the internet.
On October 22nd, the FCC voted on a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding open internet practices. According to Commissioner McDowell, the premise behind the new rules—as outlined by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski—is that the “internet is broken and government must fix it.” This draft, said McDowell, focuses on “adding a non-discrimination requirement to the four net neutrality principles that came out in the summer of 2005,” emphasizing the fact that, as of yet, the requirements have been uncodified principles, not regulations.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) examined broadband markets in 2006 and determined no market failure, said McDowell. He then asked why rules should be changed when there is no market failure. What the FCC is looking for, he argued, is data since so far “there has not been really a factual case made,” adding that “on the 22nd, the debate will begin in earnest.”
Rather than government regulation, McDowell encouraged more “private sector collaboration,” saying that he subscribes to the philosophy that “we should have innovation everywhere,” not just where the government permits innovation.
Unfortunately, he warned, an increase in regulation might have the unintended consequence of reducing network investment as a result of the “regulatory uncertainty that can come from new rules at the FCC.”
The FCC, additionally, is supposed to present a national broadband plan to Congress on February 17th, 2010, a plan which McDowell admits is not nearly formed. This new broadband plan could cost anywhere from $20 billion to $150 billion, he said. “We may present this plan to Congress, whatever it is going to look like, with a big price tag on it to be funded by the private sector, and the private sector does not show up.”
McDowell encouraged bloggers to submit any relevant facts to the FCC. The October 22nd vote will make the new rules open for public comment.