Monday, February 25, 2008

FCC Public Discussion at Harvard Today

There is a special public meeting of the Federal Communications Commission at Harvard Law School today. Discussion will focus around Internet users rights to use the bandwidth they are paying for to download and upload as they please versus the carriers rights to limit and control network usage. Both Comcast and Verizon Wireless have been on the hot seat recently with accusations made by different customers. Comcast, in particular, has been accused of controlling traffic by some. In an interview with the Associated Press on Friday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said "I'm concerned about Comcast limiting the ability of people to go anywhere they want to on the free Internet. and that's what the hearing is about." Comcast has denied allegations.

Verizon Wireless has been in the hot seat for denying an abortion rights group access to its mobile network last September. The group wanted to use the network for a national text messaging campaign. Verizon has recently admitted denying access was a mistake.

Congressman Ed Markey, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, will be attending. On February 13, Markey filed a bill titled The Internet Freedom Preservation Act (H.R. 5353), a bill that would:

.... establish broadband policy and direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a proceeding and public broadband summits to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues relating to broadband Internet access services, and for other purposes.

Here's a piece from a Markey press release:

The goal of this bipartisan legislation is to assure consumers, content providers, and high tech innovators that the historic, open architecture nature of the Internet will be preserved and fostered. H.R. 5353 is designed to assess and promote Internet freedom for consumers and content providers. Internet freedom generally embodies the notion that consumers and content providers should be free to send, receive, access and use the lawful applications, content, and services of their choice on broadband networks, possess the effective right to attach and use non-harmful devices to use in conjunction with their broadband services, and that content providers not be subjected to unreasonably discriminatory practices by broadband network providers.

And more from the same Markey press release:

The bill tasks the FCC with the job of conducting an assessment of broadband practices and consumer rights. Finally, it requires the FCC to hold eight broadband summits around the nation and to report back to Congress on its findings and any recommendations for further action.

I've written in the past about Markey's commitment in this area and support his efforts.

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