I must have been just busy enough with work and whatnot this week to miss this. This evening I caught an entry on Om Maliks blog a few days ago commenting on the double standard that the FCC is evidently applying between cable and incumbent telecom providers. Om refers to an article in the Wall Street Journal summarizing a request for information sent by the FCC to Comcast and Time Warner as part of the review of their pending acquisition of Adelphia.
From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
The FCC’s information request also focuses on several delicate areas, including agreements for regional sports programming and “net neutrality” rights — essentially preventing companies from discriminating against Internet traffic. The latter request is notable because FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wasn’t particularly concerned about net neutrality in two recent Bell mergers.
The segment of the original FCC request to which I believe the Journal is referring is as follows:
Provide all Documents relating to deliberations and decisions to stop, limit, hinder, slow, or otherwise impede the transmission of information over the Companys Residential High-speed Internet infrastructure based on the software application, source, destination, or other characteristic of the traffic. Documents regarding unsolicited commercial e-mail and malicious software need not be produced.
I suppose on some level we should be relieved that the FCC is paying attention to the issue of network neutrality. There are still two outstanding issues, though:
- The Chairmans recent comments basically saying there was no need to apply requirements for network neutrality to incumbent local exchange (telephone) carriers indicate that the FCC really doesnt care about this issue or doesnt see a reason to care. Senior executives at AT&T and BellSouth have made it clear that they intend or at the very least desire to apply a tiered approach to Internet traffic. This situation clearly calls for some sort of guidance from the regulator.
- The language of the request itself focuses on the possibility that the cable companies might impede certain kinds of traffic. It doesnt address the potential for prioritizing certain kinds of traffic. Both are at issue, because it is entirely conceivable to prioritize certain kinds of Internet traffic to such an extent that other Internet traffic is de facto de-prioritized.