Originally published: February 17, 2011
Last updated: February 17, 2011 - 10:27pm
Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has pledged to be vigilant on whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will honor a commitment not to apply network neutrality rules to peering disputes.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told Rep Blackburn that network neutrality rules do not govern peering disputes. That's a win for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, who have weighed in at the FCC to say that companies such as Level 3, which provides streaming services for Netflix, should not be able to make network neutrality charges when they get in fee skirmishes with broadband providers. Stifel Nicolaus analysts wrote that Level 3 has "little chance" of "drawing the government into this particular dispute." They added, though, that "the fight isn't over" and that Level 3 can still seek government recourse. Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, said Level 3 may be able to bring a network neutrality complaint. "AT&T and NCTA are taking this to be more than it is to say Comcast and Level 3 is completely off the table," he said. "Genachowski hedged a little. My assumption is if Level 3 could come in with a juicy piece of evidence that says we've got Comcast guys over there jacking up the price because it's Netflix, that would change things." He said he saw some options for how Level 3 could bring a complaint if he were advising the company. "I'd see two ways: showing that Comcast really intended to punish them for carrying Netflix traffic and was deliberately singling out Netflix as its biggest competitor, and showing it is not a reasonable network management practice because it has a disproportionate impact on video. I think the latter would be a lot harder, however," he said. Still, Feld said that if the FCC decides such a dispute is a business deal, "then it wouldn't fall in under net neutrality."
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