FCC Chair Says Commission Has Authority To Enforce Net Neutrality - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


FCC Chair Says Commission Has Authority To Enforce Net Neutrality

AT&T chief Whitacre pledges not to block or degrade independent services as the network neutrality issue takes center stage at the TelecomNext show.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- OK, so maybe Vonage and Google aren't nuts after all.

Reversing his rhetorical field a bit, AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre on Tuesday declared that his company won't try to block or degrade customers' access to Internet applications or content, a marked change of tone from his previous statements on the issue of network neutrality. And Federal Communications Chairman Kevin Martin said that his agency has the authority to police any so-called net neutrality violations, both in the voice and video arenas.

Both messages were sent to the keynote speech audience here at the TelecomNext show to support the idea that new legislation or regulation to specifically encode net neutrality beliefs into law isn't needed. Whitacre, who last year told BusinessWeek in an interview that Google and Vonage were "nuts" for thinking they could "use these [AT&T's] pipes for free" -- comments that sparked much of the fear and loathing in the net neutrality debate -- on Tuesday admitted that any service provider who tried to block or degrade Internet services would be committing economic suicide.

"Any provider who blocks access to the Internet is inviting customers to find another provider," Whitacre said in his keynote speech. "It's bad business." He then emphatically stated that AT&T would not block independent services, "nor will we degrade [Internet access]. Period, end of story."

In a question-and-answer period in front of the keynote audience, Martin said that "I do think the commission has the authority necessary" to enforce network neutrality violations, noting that the FCC had in fact done so in the case last year involving Madison River's blocking of Vonage's VoIP service.

"We've already demonstrated we'll take action if necessary," Martin said.

However, Martin also added that he supports network operators' desires to offer different levels of broadband service at different speeds, and at different pricing -- a so-called "tiered" Internet service structure that opponents say could give a market advantage to deep-pocket companies who can afford to pay service providers for preferential treatment.

While Martin said that consumers who don't pay for higher levels of Internet service shouldn't expect to get higher levels of performance, he did say in a following press conference that "the commission needs to make sure" that there are fair-trade ways to ensure that consumers "get what they are purchasing." When asked how consumers could measure service performance levels, Martin said that public Web sites already exist that let users measure their connection speeds.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Why 2021 May Turn Out to be a Great Year for Tech Startups
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  2/24/2021
How GIS Data Can Help Fix Vaccine Distribution
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/17/2021
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Flash Poll