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Friday, March 31, 2006

"Google, Microsoft Subject to Net Neutrality Complaints"
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"Google, Microsoft Subject to Net Neutrality Complaints"

That is a not unlikely future newspaper headline if the House Telecom and Internet Subcommittee bill were to be enacted into law as proposed. The bill gives the FCC the authority to enforce the FCC's broadband policy statement and the principles incorporated therein. The fourth principle says that "consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, applications and service providers, and content providers."

So far the focus of network neutrality proponents, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, has been on mandating open access and nondiscrimination for network providers. But, as I pointed out in my House Telecom subcommittee testimony yesterday, the principles clearly would extend the FCC's authority to all the "layers" of the Internet.

With the current market share held by Google, Amazon, and Microsoft and the others in their respective applications and content market segments, it is easy to foresee the net neutrality complaints against these companies rolling into the FCC. I've heard a lot of people complaining that they don't think they are receiving nondiscriminatory treatment and "fair placement" from Google's search engine, and Microsoft has plenty of experience with the open access, nondiscrimination wars here and in Europe.

No, I am not suggesting that the FCC should have authority to enforce "net netrality" against Internet applications and content providers. The marketplace is sufficiently competitive and technologically dynamic that it is would be very unwise for Congress to impose common carrier-type regulation on broadband operators and Internet applications and content providers. But that is where this net neutrality train is taking us. And, frankly, I am mightily surprised that Google and friends don't see that they are likely to be ensnared in the Net Neutrality train wreck too.

PS--And, speaking of Microsoft's experience in Europe, it is a fact that our European friends, and others across the globe, pay close attention to our regulatory policies here in the US, and, often emulate them. If the Barton bill were to pass with the NN provision in its current form, for their own sakes, I'd urge our friends abroad to look elsewhere for guidance.

posted by Randolph May @ 1:57 PM | Net Neutrality

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