Net neutrality lobbying heats up ahead of Dec. 21 vote

Both opponents and supporters of net neutrality rules for wireless networks are increasing their lobbying ahead of a crucial Dec. 21 vote on the controversial topic, while the details of the proposal itself--and support for it--is still in a state of flux.

Newly minted Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) CEO Daniel Mead met Friday with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and his staff, as well as other FCC officials, including Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell, and pressed Verizon's argument that the broadband industry does not need new rules. He said that any rules should follow the lead of Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) draft legislation and be allowed to expire after a certain period of time.

Verizon, along with AT&T (NYSE:T) and the CTIA, has been a consistent opponent of net neutrality rules for wireless. Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg said the company has not yet seen the details of the FCC's final proposal, but continues to believe that because wireless spectrum is a scarce resource, rules for wireless networks need to be different than wired ones.

Public interest group Public Knowledge as well as the Open Internet Coalition, which represents the likes of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Amazon, argued the opposite before the FCC. Markham Erickson, the executive director of the Open Internet Coalition, and Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, met Friday with John Giusti, chief of staff to Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps. They urged the FCC to include wireless in its definition of what constitutes broadband.

Copps' support is crucial to Genachowski's plan. Republican FCC Commissioners McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker have expressed strong opposition to Genachowski's proposal, while Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is a likely supporter of Genachowski's plan. Copps has argued for strong consumer protections on wireless networks.

Under Genachowski's current plan, wireless carriers would be prohibited from blocking services such as Google Voice and Skype that compete with their own voice and video offerings. However, wireless carriers would not face the same restrictions wired operators face on blocking Web traffic and other applications--a ban on unreasonable discrimination in transmitting lawful network traffic.

The plan for wireless networks includes transparency requirements on network management policies and a basic "no-blocking" rule. Genachowski said the FCC would closely monitor the development of mobile broadband and "be prepared to step in to further address anti-competitive or anti-consumer conduct as appropriate."

For more:
- see this Washington Post article

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