Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) said Thursday that he continues to work toward network neutrality legislation and remains solidly behind a free and open internet, but does not think network neutrality should be part of the national broadband plan.
That came in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series. Asked if network neutrality should be addressed in the plan, he said no. "It is not and frankly I think it should not be," said Boucher.
He said that was not to say it shouldn't be addressed. "We want to keep the openness, the unfettered character of it, the ability of any application providers to access it on the same terms as any provider, and the ability of any user to be free to access it," he said.
The FCC did not make network neutrality proposals part of the plan. But as a practical matter it didn't have to. The commission is already proposing to expand and codify its network openness principles in a separate proceeding and a majority of commissioners have backed it. Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell used part of his statement on the plan this week to reiterate his serious concerns about the proposal. But if it is adopted, it becomes part of the FCC's oversight of the Internet, and thus by default part and parcel of the plan, which will include numerous similar notices of proposed rulemakings on elements of a national broadband strategy.
Scott Cleland, president of The Precursor Group and chairman of netcompetition.org, says he thinks it was not in the plan because it is "a political recognition that it is counterproductive and antithetical to the fastest broadband deployment to all Americans."
On the legislative proposal, Boucher said he was "talking to the broadband providers, we're talking to the companies that rely on the Internet as a means of transporting their product to their customers, and we're working toward a set of understandings that hopefully we can embody in statute in the not-to-distant future."
It is not the first time that Boucher has talked up network neutrality legislation on the program. Three years ago, he told C-SPAN that the issue was a top priority with him, talking about the ability to discriminate against competing video streaming services as placing "innovation at risk."
That issue was before his committee several weeks ago in a hearing on the proposed joint venture between Comcast and NBCU. Deal critics are concerned the combo could favor their own online streaming model or content over their competitors, but Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts has pledged not to discriminate against competitors' programming on the Internet, even if the FCC never adopts net neutrality regulations.