Commentary

Major Web Companies Come Out In Favor Of Neutrality Rules

Chief executive officers of 25 large Web companies are urging Federal Communications Commission head Julius Genachowski to proceed with plans to create net neutrality rules.

"An open Internet fuels a competitive and efficient marketplace, where consumers make the ultimate choices about which products succeed and which fail," the CEOs said Monday in a letter to Genachowski. Signatories include Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Google's Eric Schmidt, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Craigslist's Craig Newmark.

This latest onslaught comes after a host of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle weighed in against neutrality rules. Last week, 18 Republican Senators, and 72 Democratic House members argued to the FCC that new rules could discourage broadband investment.

The Web execs who wrote to Genachowski today emphasized that Internet service providers have historically followed neutrality rules. "For most of the Internet's history, FCC rules have ensured that consumers have been able to choose the content and services they want over their Internet connections," they said. "Entrepreneurs, technologists, and venture capitalists have previously been able to develop new online products and services with the guarantee of neutral, nondiscriminatory access by users, which has fueled an unprecedented era of economic growth and creativity."

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While opponents attempt to characterize neutrality rules as some sort of shift in policy, the fact is that until 2005 Internet service providers had to follow neutrality rules -- though the word "neutrality" wasn't itself widely used.

In June of 2005, a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for ISPs to stop adhering to the common carrier principles that they had long followed. But two months later FCC then put out a policy statement endorsing net neutrality principles. Last year the agency enforced that statement by sanctioning Comcast for blocking peer-to-peer traffic, but it's not clear that the decision to sanction Comcast will hold up in court.

Meantime, the meteoric growth of online video consumption makes the case for neutrality rules more compelling than it was even a few years ago. Cable companies can't be happy that consumers can watch full episodes of TV shows or stream movies without buying pricey video subscriptions. Given ISPs' obvious financial incentives, a lack of clear neutrality regulations seems to put all online video sites at risk of being throttled.

2 comments about "Major Web Companies Come Out In Favor Of Neutrality Rules".
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  1. Frank Zappala from Zappala Consulting Network, October 20, 2009 at 10:29 a.m.

    The devil is in the details. Currently their are inequities in the market place. Companies that provide the same servicess should be goverened by the same rules. The free unfettered access to bandwidth is certainly a positive. But if it allows someone to make a profit financed by another person's dime, thats wrong. However most the regulations I have seen have be carefully crafted to either give the telcos or ISPs the competive edge, and this is not neutrality.

  2. Theresa m. Moore from Antellus, October 20, 2009 at 12:51 p.m.

    When I was signed on with AOL, the ISP service used to block Yahoo incoming messages from my customers. Similarly, I could not send messages to Yahoo or Google users without encountering blockages or delays. As a businessperson, I find that to be the biggest obstacle for conducting commerce on the internet, and if the ISPs want to continue to incur users' trust they had better adopt the net neutrality rules as a matter of good will, if nothing else. Free streaming does not make money for anyone, as book publishers will tell you. Digipiracy occurs precisely because content is being shared freely across the internet by those who think it's their right to get it. However, free access should be universal. The solution is to charge for the content, similar to pay on demand, thereby making it necessary for users to choose wisely what they want to see and hear. We pay a service fee to use the bandwidth; the content should also be subject to a fee unless the producer allows it to be shared. Perhaps a statement to that effect should precede each broadcast or download so that there is no ambiguity between user and provider. Ebooks are subject to this rule, therefore, all other content should be made available that way.

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