AT&T, Cisco Systems, DISH Network, Google, Microsoft, Intel, EchoStar and Time Warner Cable are among those joining forces to create the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (TAG), PCWorld.com reports. The group intends to develop consensus around broadband network-management practices and to advise U.S. policy-makers accordingly to help minimize policy disputes.
The group will advise the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, among others, on "the technical issues surrounding network management," the story says. Former FCC chief technologist and current University of Colorado professor Dale Hatfield will lead the group. Says Hatfield:
The TAG will function as a neutral, expert technical forum and promote a greater consensus around technical practices within the Internet community.
The group comes together as the FCC's efforts to create net neutrality rules have come under fire, first from a federal court decision that brought the agency's rulemaking authority into question and then from lawmakers, who announced a plan to review the Communications Act shortly after the FCC reclassified broadband services under Title II of the act.
Groups like Public Knowledge and the Open Internet Coalition, which support the FCC's rulemaking efforts, see nothing wrong with the TAG offering recommendations regarding network-management practices. They are, however, quick to point out that the recommendations will be only recommendations.
In response to the TAG announcement, Open Internet Coalition Executive Director Markham Erickson said in a statement:
The OIC believes this announcement is a positive step. It will help protect the openness that has been part of the Internet's DNA through voluntary industry activity. However, we strongly feel as with all self-regulatory regimes, this can only be effective with a legal backstop to enforce voluntary industry rules at the FCC. Without such a backstop, this approach will be toothless and ultimately ineffective.
The TAG's structure has not yet been formalized, according to PCWorld.com, but members expect representatives from "universities, non-profits and Internet user groups" to join them.