Erik's Weblog 2.0

November 25, 2009

[@359]

Net Neutrality: Rick Larsen

Dear Erik & Vicki:

Thank you for contacting me in regard to net neutrality. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me on this issue.

As a member of the Congressional Internet Caucus, I strongly support efforts to make access to broadband services universal in the United States. Our country must adopt a multifaceted approach to promote broadband access by helping providers expand broadband access in underserved areas, encouraging small businesses to invest in broadband, and ensuring that consumers can choose between high-quality, affordable Internet options.

As you know, network neutrality has been a contentious issue in Congress for some time. It asserts that, in order to promote innovation, Internet service providers (ISPs) such as telephone and cable internet companies should not be permitted to dictate how networks are used. For example, broadband carriers should be prohibited from slowing down internet connections to competitor's websites or charging fees to a website in order to obtain a faster connection.

In 2005 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted four principles to offer guidance to ISPs regarding the rights consumers have when accessing the Internet through their networks. The FCC's goal in enacting these principles was to take steps to ensure that broadband networks are widely deployed, open, affordable and accessible to all and to ensure that Internet services are operated in a neutral manner. The four principles are:
o consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice;
o consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement;
o consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and
o consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
On October 22, 2009, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that the Commission would seek to develop formal rules to codify the existing principles and create two additional rules that apply only to ISPs.

The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination ?" stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers' homes.

The sixth principle is a transparency principle ?" stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.

Recently, I joined several of my colleagues in sending a letter to Chairman Genachowski regarding the FCC's proposed net neutrality rules. While I applaud the FCC for taking steps to ensure transparency that will continue to promote greater Internet access for consumers, I have concerns that the Commission is attempting to solve a problem that does not currently exist, and in the process reduce ISPs from continuing to invest in expansion of their broadband networks.

Another concern I have with Chairman Genachowski's proposed rules changes is the exemption of content providers from competition standards that were originally created in 2005, and have thus far worked to ensure that both ISPs (Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast) and content providers (Google and Microsoft) are held to an equal standard of transparency. Unfortunately, the FCC has proposed to maintain transparency standards explicitly for ISPs, while eliminating these standards for content providers. If the FCC is serious about having an open Internet, it should not pick winners and losers in the net neutrality debate.

I believe that Congress and the FCC must continue to promote Internet transparency to ensure competition remains strong and consumers have the ability to access the free flow of information the Internet provides without being denied service or provided service that is degraded. If in some way, these principles are not followed - Congress and the FCC must act in the best interest of consumers.

The FCC has set a deadline of January 14, 2009 for preliminary comments, and a March 5, 2009 deadline for reply comments on its proposed net neutrality rules changes. Please know that I will continue to monitor the issue of net neutrality and will be sure to keep your comments in mind should any relevant legislation reach the House floor for a vote.

Again, thank you for contacting me on this issue. Please don't hesitate to contact me further should you have any additional questions, comments, or concerns on this or any other issue.



Sincerely,

Rick Larsen
United States Representative
Washington State, 2nd District