Gaming Helps Drive FiOS, Says Tauke

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Saying online gaming was one of the key drivers behind Verizon's rollout of its FiOS video service, EVP Tom Tauke told a media crowd in Washington Friday that he saw a time when such companies would want to buy extra bandwidth from Verizon to give players the "burst" of speed they need "for a quality experience."

Tauke was making a case against strong network neutrality language in the Senate telcom reform bill headed for the Senate floor by September.

He said he knew of no current or planned deals with video game companies to sell them the capacity to provide extra bursts of bandwidth, but said it was the kind of application that restrictive regulation would preclude.

Net neutrality proponents argue that such business models will create a tiered slow lane vs. fast lane Web model that will allow money or politics to determine who gets the faster service. Tauke said "extreme 'network neutrality'" supporters have a fear of the marketplace "that simply doesn't compute."

Tauke says consumers are getting "more access, more speed, more services and more choices. Yet somehow there's a problem that requries the government to step in? I don't think so."Tauke said that many online companies already enter into commercial agreements to boost the megabits for users. "If policymakers decide that network access cannot be created differently," he said, "we drag broadband back to the days where there was no incentive to innovate and very little competition.

He said that broadband capacity is essentially limitless, which "puts the "notion of an 'Internet slow lane' in the category of things like steam-powered automobiles, black and white TV sets and 16-bit computers."

"I think Tauke made a compelling argument against government-mandated network neutrality said former FCC Chairman James Quello, on hand for the speech at The Media Institute, a media-backed policy think tank.

Tauke, a former congressman himself, said it was always safer to bet against a bill's passage than on it, since they are easier to kill. But he also said he saw a realistic chance for passage of a bill providing the video franchise reform his company has sought.

Though he said the bill was not in the "must do" category, he said there was traction in the "video choice" argument for creating competition to cable and motivation in two committee chairman, Joe Barton of the House Energy & Commerce and Ted Stevens of the Senate Commerce Committee, who were committed to passing some form of their now-very-different bills. Stevens has said he might be willing to trim the Senate version.

As to whether the voluminous Senate version would have to be pared back, Tauke avowed he has always said to get the bill through it should be limited to the essentials, but wasn't going to advise the congressmen what to cut.

But he pointed out that trimming it could also lose the backing of the legislators pushing the various issues that get trimmed. For example, he said, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) thinks the broadcast flag protection technology the bill now establishes is important, so if the bill is to get floor time for a vote,which he controls, that would not be a provision to trim.

The already-passed House bill is confined to video franchise reform while the Senate version includes a number of provisions that had to be cut from an earlier bill on the DTV transition.

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