FCC Looking for Violations

The FCC is investigating whether there are any current violations of net neutrality on the part of U.S. broadband operators:
Advocates of such laws, proponents of what is known as Net neutrality, also don’t claim to have widespread reports of discriminatory Internet practices. “For the most part, the industry is on its best behavior,” says Art Brodsky, communications director of Public Knowledge, an advocacy group and supporter of Net neutrality legislation. “If there is a cop sitting behind you, do you floor it and go 90? Not if you are smart.”

The issue for Net neutrality advocates isn’t so much what the broadband providers are currently doing—though they do point to a few instances where Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) Internet telephone providers, such as Vonage (VG), were blocked by smaller service providers. Their main concern is what the telecommunications companies may do in the future to make more money from the high-speed cable and telephone networks they have and are building.

Without any specific problems to investigate, it’s unclear what the FCC’s investigation will ultimately do. In a statement, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said the purpose of the inquiry was to be fully informed. “Gathering this information will allow us to better monitor this market,” says Martin.

FCC Probe: Net Neutrality Goose Chase? The regulator’s search for discriminatory pricing by broadband providers may turn up little—but that doesn’t mean the practice won’t ever occur, by Catherine Holahan, Business Week, 27 March 2007

Monitoring the market is good, and if that’s what the FCC is really doing, preparing to monitor the market longterm, that’s probably a good idea. However, given that the FCC-brokered agreement for the AT&T-Bellsouth merger said that the participants would not do anything against net neutrality for two years, that is, after 2008, discovering that there aren’t currently many violations could also prove useful for political purposes leading up to the 2008 elections. I guess we’ll see.