Service providers take positions as FCC begins deliberations on net neutrality rules

Broadband providers, having made their initial moves, are jostling for position as the FCC today begins reviewing what sort and how much control it will exert on the Internet provisioning space. A parallel effort within Congress is also drawing some attention to the issue.

Already, an unlikely alliance of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and even more unlikely members Google, Cisco and Microsoft has formed to try to dissuade the FCC from any rash actions. But even in the earliest of early stages, some members of the group are splintering off. Verizon, for instance, took a shot at fellow member Comcast, which agreed to pay $16 million to parties injured when the MSO stifled peer-to-peer bandwidth.

"They were using reset packets and it clearly did harm a lot of users. You can't do that kind of thing, even if it's network management to deal with congestion problems," said Link Hoewing, a Verizon policy executive. "That's not appropriate." In the new era of cooperation, Hoewing said an industry body would have been able to work as a whole to more amicably resolve the problem.

It will be interesting to see if that new industry body, or anyone, can convince FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that some form of regulation (he's suggested a "third way" that respects "investment and innovation") isn't necessary.

He's also being buffeted from the other side of the argument with the Open Internet Coalition urging the need for controls to protect consumers. That group's members include Google (the same one that's teamed with the cable and phone guys), eBay and Amazon, among others. OIC executive director Markham Erickson claims that this issue is urgent because "right now there are no rules of the road to protect consumers from even the most egregious discriminatory behavior by telephone and cable companies."

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