Grant Gross, IDG News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Efforts in the U.S. Congress to prohibit broadband
providers from impairing or favoring some network traffic will "shut the
door" to new services, a Verizon Communications official said Tuesday.
Current congressional attempts to write a so-called Net neutrality
provision into law would stop broadband network operators from
offering VPNs (virtual private networks) to online gaming vendors
looking to improve connectivity or to hospitals launching home
health-monitoring services over IP (Internet Protocol), said Tom
Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs, policy,
Tauke's concerns that Verizon could no longer offer VPNs are
"ridiculous," said Art Brodsky, a spokesperson for Public Knowledge,
an online rights advocacy group.
"The point is that there has to be room for a company other than
Verizon's favored health-monitoring partner to offer the service as
well," Brodsky said in an e-mail.
Tauke's speech -- at a broadband policy summit sponsored by Pike &
Fischer, a research and publishing company -- was a focused rebuttal
to consumer groups and e-commerce firms calling for a Net neutrality
provision to be included in telecommunications reform legislation now
being debated in Congress.
Advocates for Net neutrality want lawmakers to prohibit large
broadband providers from blocking or impairing their customers' access
to competing Web sites or applications. Net neutrality advocates say a
law is necessary because recently deregulated broadband providers --
many of which have few competitors -- have also talked of charging
e-commerce companies new fees for top-priority network connections.
But Verizon's Tauke said most current Net neutrality proposals --
including one in a House of Representatives telecom reform bill that
Net neutrality advocates complain is too weak -- would limit broadband
providers from offering innovative services that need connectivity
guarantees. "The Internet, after all, is a network of networks," he
said. "It operates on a 'best efforts' basis, and therefore no carrier
is accountable for end-to-end management or quality of service." The
House bill would prohibit the U.S. Federal Communications Commission
from creating new Net neutrality rules and would only allow the
organization to investigate blocking abuses after the fact.
The Net neutrality provision in a bill approved by the House Energy
and Commerce Committee last month says consumers are "entitled" to
broadband access and competition. Overzealous regulators could
interpret that language to mean broadband prices should be regulated,
Tauke said after his speech.
Background Instead of creating new government regulation of the
Internet, lawmakers should let the marketplace and consumers decide
what's needed, Tauke said. "If policy makers decide that all network
access must be the same -- that a carrier cannot differentiate or
discriminate -- we will be shutting the door on an array of new and
exciting services for consumers," he said.
Blocking access to Web content consumers want makes no sense, Tauke
added. He compared a broadband provider blocking Web content to a
premium coffee shop replacing its coffee with an instant grocery-store
brand. "On paper, it makes them more money; in reality, it puts them
out of business," he said.
Copyright 2006 PC World Communications, Inc.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: What are _your_ feelings on net neutrality?
How should this go, realistically? PAT]