Last Thursday, I escorted Randy May to the House Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet hearing on the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006. (Our stamina should be commended because we were in the hearing room for a full seven hours.) Randy was asked to testify and his written testimony can be found here. The bill covers national video franchising, e911, and the hot issue of the season: net neutrality mandates.
I was most interested to hear opinions on the net neutrality language in the bill, which gives the FCC the right to enforce its four neutrality "principles" that were released last fall. I was a bit mystified that the tone of some of the statements and testimony presented implied that broadband providers are just waiting to jack up prices, block content, and screw their customers. Um, and I thought that broadband providers would want to ensure their customers were happy so they didn't switch to another internet provider but, many people there didn't seem to share the same opinion.
I was most surprised by Rep. Boucher (VA), who seemed to grasp that video, games, and similar applications use more bandwidth than simply sending an email. He was open to different tiers of service and opined that maybe they should be organized by type of application. This made me smile but, if he is considering regulating these tiers, it seems dangerously close to what Randy likes to call anticipatory regulation based upon "techno-functional constructs." Of course, its never a good idea to anticipate what technologies will come about a few years down the road. It seemed Rep. Buyer (IN) was reading my mind because he mentioned that "satellite" wasn't mention in the bill and video programming is no longer just accessed through your local cable company.
All of the members spoke about increasing competition in the broadband and video markets. I just hope they carefully read Randy's written testimony, which states that enforcement of the network neutrality principles could actually slow innovation and investment in the broadband market.
So, if you come across the hearing on C-Span, please do watch. And, if you are lucky enough to see Randy's testimony, yes, that's me sitting behind him.