During a hearing last week, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology discussed the future of online video and whether the Communications Act, which regulates cable, satellite and broadcast companies, should be changed or expanded.
Today, online video is not regulated at all. As Greg Walden, R-Ore., sees it, the subcommittee has two options: deregulation or an expansion of the 20 year-old Communications Act.
Walden argued against regulation: "Regulation is not only unnecessary in such a vibrant environment, it can actually harm this nascent competition," Walden said. "The creative chaos in the marketplace, frankly, is healthy as parties fight to out-innovate each other and win viewers."
The subcommittee also discussed cable companies that deploy broadband data caps, or charging extra fees to consumers who consume more data than their monthly allotment.
"As consumers increasingly watch video through broadband, an open Internet that is accessible to all becomes even more important," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. "We need to carefully examine whether practices like broadband data usage caps are restricting consumer choice or being employed in an anti-competitive manner."
Netflix General Counsel David Hyman, who testified before the subcommittee, warned against regulation aiding anticompetitive practices.
"When you couple limited broadband competition with a strong desire to protect legacy video distribution businesses, you have both the means and motivation to engage in anticompetitive behavior," Hyman said. "Add to this mix a regulatory and legislative framework largely crafted before the modern Internet era, and you have the makings for confusion and gamesmanship."