When Google and Verizon released their collaborative "proposal" around net neutrality requirements, I was annoyed because they seemed to be attempting an end-run around the rulemaking process the Federal Communications Commission had already set in motion.
According to Reuters, four members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are thinking along the same lines. Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; Jay Inslee, D-Wash.; and Mike Doyle, D-Penn., wrote Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski this week, urging the agency to take its own action on net neutrality and broadband regulations rather than simply modify and adopt the proposal offered by Google and Verizon.
From the letter:
Rather than expansion upon a proposal by two large communications companies with a vested financial interest in the outcome, formal FCC action is needed.
I tend to agree. I'm oversimplifying here, but think about it. If the FCC doesn't act, isn't it effectively abdicating its authority on the issue to the company or group that comes up with the best proposal? Every time new questions come up with regard to broadband services, providers will be racing to convince the agency that their idea is the best one.
To a certain extent, that happens now as part of the proposed rulemaking public comment process, but the FCC does have the final word on matters that are addressed through the formal process. The new rules are adopted or they're not, and everyone moves forward accordingly.
If the service providers each do what they think is best, then those consumers who can afford better service will get it, and those who cannot will be left "off the grid" so to speak.
Given that communication though e-mail and social networking is quickly eclipsing traditional forms, that's not exactly reasonable. But neither is it feasible for the United States to provide broadband access to its citizens as a right. The costs would be too high.
Net neutrality regulations, then, would provide a happy medium - the best we can do under the circumstances.