[AfrICANN-discuss] US Internet Neutrality Flare-Up Resonates Across International Front

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Mon Aug 23 19:27:53 SAST 2010


US Internet Neutrality Flare-Up Resonates Across International Front

By Liza Porteus Viana on 23 August 2010 @ 6:18 pm


A network neutrality policy proposed recently by industry giants Google and
Verizon not only sparked controversy here in the United States, but the news
is making waves internationally as well.

The proposal aims to ensure network (or “Net”) neutrality for wireline
internet services but not for rapidly growing wireless ones. It also calls
for “full transparency” across both wireline and wireless broadband
platforms, and calls for the FCC to have authority to adjudicate user
complaints and impose injunctions and penalties against bad actors.

Pro-neutrality groups such as Public Knowledge, Open Internet Coalition, and
members of the SavetheInternet.com Coalition, blasted the proposal as one
that would only benefit industry behemoths and would be a detriment to
startups, consumers, and others. They argue in favour of neutrality for all
parts of the internet and against allowing service providers to block or
restrict certain users over others. Some also oppose the FCC allowing
industry to take the lead in proposing such policies, and say the FCC would
not have enough enforcement power under the proposal. Opponents also fear
this proposal would result in a tiered system where those entities with the
deepest pockets would enjoy faster internet, thereby discriminating against

“It should not be the policy of Federal Communications Commission nor
Congress to allow the largest telecom and internet companies to write the
regulations that determine the future of the internet,” said Benjamin
Lennett, policy analyst for the New America Foundation’s Open Technology
Initiative. “If we have learned anything from the failures of financial
deregulation or the past administration allowing Big Oil to write our
nation’s energy policy. We cannot leave it to the market to regulate

On 18 August, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) held the
first of a series of new Net neutrality discussions in their offices with
various stakeholders; neither Google nor the FCC are involved. These talks
are “aimed at developing internet openness principles that can achieve broad
cross-sector support,” said ITI President Dean Garfield. “Over the last few
months, much work has been directed at developing such a solution –
including by Google – with significant positive steps forward. This new
effort will build on that work to arrive at something that can achieve both
public and private sector support and strike the balance of encouraging
continued innovation and investment in the internet.”

But some neutrality advocates call these talks yet another “backroom
corporate deal.”

“Industry deal-making is no substitute for responsible policymaking,” said
Free Press Policy Counsel Aparna Sridhar. “This latest effort by a few large
companies to dictate the rules behind closed doors will not protect internet
users. Industry titans will propose rules that serve only their own

Many groups are particularly upset with Google, which has been a staunch
advocate of neutrality both here and abroad, in countries such as India. The
Open Internet Coalition – of which companies and groups such as Facebook,
Amazon, eBay and Google are a part – opposes Google’s move.

“Google has always presented itself as a different kind of corporate
entity,” said Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org. “The fact that
they are involved in a deal that would kill internet freedom directly
contradicts this image. We hope that Google will reconsider before they are
seen as just another giant corporation out to make a buck regardless of the

Facebook said it continues to support neutrality for landline and wireless

“Preserving an open internet that is accessible to innovators – regardless
of their size or wealth – will promote a vibrant and competitive marketplace
where consumers have ultimate control over the content and services
delivered through their internet connections,” Facebook said in a statement.

Google denies it has “sold out” on Net neutrality, calling the proposal the
“best policy solution we could devise together.” “Given political
realities,” the company said, “this particular issue has been intractable in
Washington for several years now. At this time there are no enforceable
protections … against even the worst forms of carrier discrimination against
internet traffic.”

Verizon defended
[1] against one media characterisation of the deal, pointing out on 18
August that the proposal includes: “Prohibitions on blocking or degrading,
enforcement of a non-discrimination requirement and a presumption against
all prioritization on Internet connections … stronger than what the FCC
could obtain through its threatened imposition of old-world telecom
regulations” on broadband networks.

AT&T argued in its policy
[2] that, “wireless is different” and that it should not be subjected to the
same regulatory framework as wired services. The company noted the
“ever-constant struggle between capacity and demand” for wireless services
and calling on policymakers to reallocate more spectrum for Commercial
Mobile Radio Services use and to protect wireless broadband networks from
“onerous new net neutrality regulations.”

Although Microsoft has not publicly commented on the proposal, it has voiced
support for Net neutrality and is reportedly involved in the ITI talks. On
the policy issues section of its website, the company said: “It is also
important that broadband users continue to enjoy basic Internet ‘freedoms,’
such as the ability to access any site and use any lawful application or
device. These Internet freedoms further fuel innovation.”

On 16 August, a group of congressional Democrats wrote a
[3] to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, blasting the “industry-centered”
policy, and calling for formal FCC action “rather than expansion upon a
proposal by two large communications companies with a vested financial
interest in the outcome.” That letter also voices support for the FCC’s
“third way” proposal – a response to the Comcast court decision that would
reclassify data transmission as a telecommunications service that could be
directly regulated. This method would also give the FCC clearer oversight in
this area.

The Recording Industry Association of America and 12 other groups also sent
a letter <>
[4][pdf] to Google encouraging internet service providers (ISPs) and
intermediaries “to take measures to deter unlawful activity such as
copyright infringement and child pornography.”

International Level

The result of the net neutrality debate does not just affect the United
States. Other countries are watching as they form their own policies on the

Luis Villarroel, director of investigations for the Latin American
Corporation for Research of Intellectual Property for Development, or
Corporación Innovarte, in Chile, fears that whatever model of neutrality is
adopted in the United States will later be “exported to the rest of the
world” via free trade agreements – the mode in which he says America has
been pushing other solutions to issues such as domain-name resolution and
internet service provider (ISP) liability.

“So certainly [it] is very important for all that US get it right on this,
and certainly there are many good reasons to ensure network neutrality for
wireless services, where more should be done,” Villarroel said.

In July, Chile adopted an amendment that mandates net neutrality for legal
activities and requires ISPs to provide users information on what broadband
speeds they offer. Ronaldo Lemos thinks Chile’s law can also serve as a
model to be adopted by other Latin American countries. Lemos, the director
of the Center for Technology and Society at Fundaçao Getulio Vargas (FGV), a
think-tank and law school in Brazil, stressed that in developing countries,
portions of the network infrastructure were built with the help of
government. Brazil’s National Broadband Plan (Plano Nacional de Banda
Larga), is one example of where government dollars are helping roll out
universal broadband throughout the country.

“It is hard to argue against net neutrality in such cases,” Lemos told
Intellectual Property Watch. “These networks must be neutral, and regarded
as ‘common carriers’.”

Brazil is drafting new legislation
net neutrality called “Marco Civil” (Civil Rights Framework for the
Internet), spurred by the Ministry of Justice and the FGV’s Center for
Technology and Society. Lemos explained that during the drafting process,
telecommunications companies protested against neutrality in Brazil while
public interest groups rallied for it. The final draft should be completed
this year.

“Because of its timing, the Google/Verizon deal has the potential of
stirring up more controversy, creating incentives for the different views to
become even more extreme,” Lemos added. The Brazilian legislation “will
certainly take into account the issues raised by the Google/Verizon deal.”

The European Union has launched a consultation on key net neutrality
questions, including whether providers should be able to regulate internet
traffic and prioritise some traffic over others, and whether there is
sufficient competition and transparency among providers. France-based
neutrality advocacy group La Quadrature du Net (LQDN) is one entity that
will provide input to that process early next month.

“The Google/Verizon could have a lasting impact on the Net neutrality debate
everywhere, especially if it is followed by [legislation], in the US and
beyond,” said LQDN spokesman Jérémie Zimmerman. “The lobbying power of these
two companies combined with the one of [sic] other telcos agreeing with
their position – AT&T, etcetera – is huge.”

Zimmerman added that the Google/Verizon proposal’s “lawful content” language
implies that it should be excluded from net neutrality rules.

“This is wrong, and we greatly opposed this in the European Parliament in
the Telecoms Package debate: a given content is not lawful or unlawful, it
is the usage that is done with it (accessing it, copying it, etc.) that
could be declared unlawful… after a decision of the judicial authority,” he
added. “The notion of ‘lawful content’ put into the definition of network
policies could lead to “automated justice” being handled by machines (deep
packet inspection, filtering, etc.), under supervision of private actors.”

Pieter Hintjens, CEO of the Brussels-based iMatix Corporation, which
develops software that makes it possible for others to create distributed
computer applications, told Intellectual Property Watch that not only is
extending network neutrality to wireless networks is “fundamental,” but so
is reducing wireless data costs both domestically and when roaming.

“Without network neutrality, a mobile operator can forbid competing
applications, e.g. VoIP [voice over internet protocol], and in many
countries without network neutrality legislation, this is what happens,”
Hintjens said. “Clearly this is not in the interests of an efficient, open,
competitive economy.”

“Economic growth depends on competition, not cartels,” he added. “Europe
especially risks being left with serious damage to its economy as European
firms find themselves unable to compete in an increasingly one-sided”
Related Articles:

   - US Acts To Preserve Internet Neutrality; European Debate Heats
   - US Advisory Group Looks At FCC Net Neutrality Principles As Decision
   - MPAA On Broadband, Net Neutrality: Regulation Good, Not

 Categories: English, Information and Communications Technology/
Broadcasting, Language, Lobbying, News, Themes, US Policy, Venues

Article printed from Intellectual Property Watch: *

URL to article: *

URLs in this post:

[1] defended itself: *

[2] in its policy blog: *

[3] wrote a letter: *

[4] sent a letter: **

[5] new legislation : *

[6] US Acts To Preserve Internet Neutrality; European Debate Heats Up: *

[7] US Advisory Group Looks At FCC Net Neutrality Principles As Decision
Looms: *

[8] MPAA On Broadband, Net Neutrality: Regulation Good, Not Good: *

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