Net Neutrality Backers: TAG Isn't It

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Network
neutrality backers were quick to weigh in on the announcement of the
formation of an industry technical advisory group (TAG) to come up with a
consensus on reasonable broadband network management practices and
advise the government on the issue.

The FCC has proposed tapping
industry expertise for its own plan to expand and codify broadband
access guidelines, a plan Free Press and other network neutrality
regulation supporters say should not be preempted by the industry
announcement.

Free Press Policy Counsel M. Chris Riley said he
had no problem with industry trying to "identify broadband network
management practices that do not harm users," but he said in a statement
reacting to the technical working group announcement that it should not
be a substitute for the government setting its own "basic rules of the
road for the Internet." He called the proposal premature, and said
defining nondiscrimination should be within a legal framework and backed
by enforceable rules.

"Even if this group puts out excellent
recommendations, they will be just that - recommendations," Riley said.
"There must be a separate FCC rulemaking process, which can take the
recommendations of this or any other voluntary advisory group into
account, but rubber-stamping those recommendations would ignore the
agency's mandate to create public policy in the public interest.
Allowing industry to set its own rules is like allowing BP to regulate
its drilling. The Comcast BitTorrent case shows that without government
oversight, Internet Service Providers will engage in what are already
deemed by engineers to be bad practices."

Gigi Sohn, president of
Public Knowledge, was slightly more positive, but with the same big
caveat. "We believe there is a role for advisory groups to consult on
items of technical importance. Given that this advisory group is only
just getting off the ground, we are cautiously optimistic that it may do
some good."

But she said that as currently constituted, the
group is dominated by the telecom industry--members include Comcast,
Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T--and that, in any event, "it is not a
substitute for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and
enforcement procedures and it certainly should not be interpreted as
such by anyone."

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