FCC Chairman Martin addresses Network Neutrality (audio)

Kevin MartinAn InternetNews article reports on comments concerning net neutrality by FCC chairman Kevin Martin during an address at “Legal Futures” – a Stanford Law School event – last week.

From the article:

In his remarks, Martin specifically said he wants to finish the FCC’s consideration of complaints related to network management issues by the first half of this year.

How the FCC might rule on the various cases remains to be seen. Martin said he believes his tenure has been marked by a “lighter regulatory touch,” but that doesn’t mean action won’t be taken where needed. He noted, for example, the FCC already took action three years ago, when it fined a small telecom firm for blocking Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (define) traffic.

Martin described the complaints and controversy over Comcast’s blocking of BitTorrent traffic as “an opportunity to demonstrate we will enforce [reasonable network access] principles and allow innovation to occur

In 2005, the FCC approved four “principles” that summarize the basic rights of Internet end users: end users have the right to access content; run applications and services; connect devices to the network; and to expect competition among network, application, service and content providers.

But the controversy over network neutrality remains. “The FCC hasn’t said whether [broadband providers] can have a fast lane versus a slow lane,” said Martin. “The Commission hasn’t spoken to that. To the extent you are asserting network management as a defense against the four principles, all the applications have to be treated the same, or it’s truly not about network management but about arbitrary blocking.”

Martin also emphasized that the extent to which a company discloses its network management practices to consumers and developers would be critical to the FCC’s evaluation of any complaint.

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