Wednesday, September 06, 2006, 3:39 PM

FTC's Internet Access Task Force and Net Neutrality

On August 21, the FTC announced the formation of an Internet Access Task Force which will address important issues being raised by converging technologies and regulatory developments, and educate the Commission in its enforcement, advocacy and education initiatives. The task force will also address one of the most hotly debated issues in communications -- "network neutrality." FTC Commissioner Deborah Platt Majoras explained:
"'Network neutrality' has been variously defined and may mean different things to different people. On one level, it appears to mean that Internet users should have the freedom to access and use it as they choose, without any restriction by network providers. On another but related level, it means, at a minimum, the right of content providers to unfettered access to the many privately owned networks that comprise the Internet and may also mean that all data transmissions are assigned equal priority as they are passed along from network to network in cyberspace.

Fear of restrictions or discrimination in access has led proponents of 'net neutrality' to seek legislation that would, for example, prohibit broadband providers from discriminating against any person's ability to use a service to access or provide lawful content, from refusing to interconnect facilities with another service provider on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, or from charging a fee for prioritizing transmission of particular types of data."
Chairman Platt Majoras, however, "urge[d] caution in proceeding on the issue." She "question[ed] the starting assumption that government regulation, rather than the market itself under existing laws, will provide the best solution to a problem."

To read more of her speech, go here.

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