McSlarrow: Net Neutrality Law Not Needed

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Washington—Congress should refrain from adopting a network neutrality law because cable operators are managing their broadband networks in an open manner and do not engage in anticompetitive conduct, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow plans to say in testimony Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

"Congress should resist calls to interfere with broadband providers’ freedom to manage their respective networks in order to satisfy the evolving needs of American consumers," McSlarrow says.

McSlarrow is scheduled to testify Tuesday morning before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on network neutrality legislation introduced by subcommittee chairman Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.)

McSlarrow suggests that legislation would be inappropriate because supporters of a net neutrality law have failed to make the case that broadband network operators have engaged in conduct harmful to consumers, justifying the need for government intervention.

“The disaster scenarios voiced by network neutrality proponents for many years have never happened. In fact, the opposite has happened—the Internet is booming without regulation. There is quite simply no problem requiring a government solution,” McSlarrow says.

Markey's bill (HR 5353) declares “the policy of United States” is to maintain Internet freedom, which includes “the freedom to use for lawful purposes broadband telecommunications networks, including the Internet, without unreasonable interference from or discrimination by network operators…”

The bill also instructs the Federal Communications Commission “to safeguard the open marketplace of ideas on the Internet by adopting and enforcing baseline protections to guard against unreasonable discriminatory favoritism for, or degradation of, content by network operators based upon its source ownership or destination on the Internet.”

Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, also scheduled to testify, says it's time for a net neutrality law in part because Comcast Corp. insists that the FCC is powerless to enforce its August 2005 broadband principles designed to protect consumer freedom to access lawful Internet content and applications.

“Comcast is currently under investigation by the [FCC] for allegations that it has secretly blocked consumers from using a popular Internet application. There is a very clear problem—Comcast was just the first to cross the line and get caught. That case also demonstrates that the threat requires congressional action: Comcast disputes the FCC’s legal authority to protect consumers,” Scott's testimony says.

Comcast had been accused of blocking peer-to-peer traffic of BitTorrent users, but Comcast has denied blocking the bandwidth- intensive application. Instead, the company said it delayed some upstream P2P transmissions to deal with network congestion issues at peak times.

McSlarrow's and Scott's testimony was obtained Monday by Multichannel News. Scott is slated to testify also on behalf of Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America.

Also scheduled to testify are: Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America; Christopher S. Yoo, Professor of Law, Founding Director, Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition, University of Pennsylvania; Scott Savitz, CEO and Founder, Shoebuy.com; Steve Peterman, Executive Producer, Hannah Montana, on behalf of Writers Guild of America, West; Michele Combs, Vice President, Communications, Christian Coalition of America; and Walter McCormick, President and Chief Executive Officer, United States Telecom Association.

Without referring directly to the Comcast case at the FCC, McSlarrow says cable operators need to manage their networks to combat bandwidth hogs.

“Faced with these voracious bandwidth consumers, cable operators may engage in reasonable, content-agnostic network management practices—triggered by objective criteria based upon network traffic levels—to ensure that the relatively few customers who utilize bandwidth-heavy applications do not degrade or otherwise adversely affect broadband Internet access for the vast majority of customers,” McSlarrow says.

Fighting content piracy on the Internet is another reason networks need to be managed, McSlarrow says.

“Reasonable network management practices are also vital to combating the well-documented, illegal distribution of copyrighted material on the Internet. We cannot ignore the problem of piracy. It is a problem that affects not just broadband service providers, legitimate broadband application providers and content providers, but also law-abiding consumers,” he says.

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