FCC's Net Neutrality Proceeding Means More Work For State Department
Reclassification could cause government to adjust recommendations
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/17/2010 2:24:57 PM
Following a luncheon speech at The Media Institute, Verveer, a former top FCC official, was asked whether that reclassification would cause the government to have to "adjust or amend" its international policy recommendation that competition, rather than regulation, was the preferred method of dealing with communications issues.
While saying the decision about what to do about network neutrality was in the hands of his colleagues at the FCC, he said the point was an important one.
"I can tell you from my travels around the world and my discussions with figures in various governments around the world there is a very significant preoccupation with respect to what we are proposing with respect to broadband and especially with respect to the net neutrality."
The FCC recognized that possibility when it launched the net neutrality proceeding back in October 2009. In announcing the proposed rulemaking codifying and expanding net neutrality principles, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that "there should be no confusion on this point, at home or abroad. This commission fully agrees that government must not restrict the free flow of information over the Internet.
But Verveer said that the proceeding "is one that could be employed by regimes that don't agree with our perspectives about essentially avoiding regulation of the Internet and trying to be sure not to do anything to damage its dynamism and its organic development. It could be employed as a pretext or as an excuse for undertaking public policy activities that we would disagree with pretty profoundly."
He says he has tried to assuage his counterparts' concerns over the proceeding. "But [the concern] is there, and depending upon what happens with respect to the net neutrality proceeding, it may well end up having an effect that will cause us at the state department to have to engage in a lot of discussions with our foreign counterparts."
The thrust of Verveer's brief speech, whose brevity he said was in inverse proportion to the importance of the subject, was the impact of cloud computing on privacy and intermediary liability.
He called on his audience, representing trade associations and media companies, to engage in the dialog. The old rules and protections, he suggested, were written in a point-to-point world where it was easier to determine when information crossed boundaries. Now, he said, the explosive growth in Internet use and cloud computing and storage requires new thinking and likely new guidelines. But he also put in a pitch for retaining and pitching to the world the current protections for ISP's and others from liability for the third party content that they host or post on the net, saying that has spurred innovation and creativity.
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