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CONTACT: Patrick Ross
December 21 , 2005
(202) 289-8928

Net Neutrality in a Post-Brand X World
PFF Releases Transcript of Net Neutrality Event

WASHINGTON D.C. - On September 21st, The Progress & Freedom Foundation held a policy briefing to discuss the net neutrality principles put forth by the FCC this past August. The event featured a keynote address by former Congressman Thomas Tauke, and provided attendees with a thorough debate of the neutrality principles and the future of telecommunications regulation reform. Today, The Progress & Freedom Foundation is releasing a transcript of the event, "Net Neutrality or Net Neutering in a Post-Brand X World: Self-Regulation, Policy Principles, and Legal Mandates in the Broadband Marketplace."

Randolph May, Senior Fellow and Director of Communications Policy Studies at PFF, served as moderator of the event. Regarding the release of the transcript, May said, "The issue of 'network neutrality' regulation of broadband services remains at the forefront of the communications policy reform debate. This transcript contains a rich dialogue from a variety of perspectives. Tom Tauke's call in his keynote address for a new regime in which 'Consumers Rule, Government Referees' served as the prelude to a spirited discussion. As the debate over communications reform moves into next year, this transcript should help inform the policymakers about the stakes."

In his opening address, Thomas Tauke, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, Policy and Communications for Verizon, addressed anticipatory regulation present in the 1996 Telecom Act and current communication reform proposals, calling for a dramatically different regulatory model. "(T)he world has changed and we know that the old game, where the government rules and consumers are passive beneficiaries, won't work in the real world. Now we have a new game where consumers, not regulators, rule. The proper role of government is to simply referee. The consumers rule, Congress adopts, and the government referees policy," said Tauke.

The keynote was followed by a panel discussion, featuring a range of stakeholders in the net neutrality debate. Daniel Brenner of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association supported net neutrality principles overall but warned against attempts at enforcement. "Imagine bringing every single kind of commercial dispute to the FCC. Thank goodness, Chairman Martin's very helpful, separate, policy statement said that this is not enforceable with the FCC. This is because he has not opened the window for the kind of business dispute resolution at the FCC that some would like network neutrality to become," stated Brenner in his remarks. David McClure of U.S. Internet Industry Association expressed his support of deregulation coupled with the industry working with the FCC principles on neutrality. "There are legions of industries out there that regulate themselves very efficiently; where rules, regulations, and new laws are required only in clear cases of market failure," stated McClure. Peter Pitsch of Intel suggested that the FCC should deal with connectivity disputes on an individual basis, as opposed to broad regulation. "Recognizing that there was not substantial evidence of a problem and that it is complex, we advocated a case-by-case approach to the problem. We monitored complaints by dealing with them expeditiously and realistically. But we did not try to come up with a statutory solution that tries to anticipate all problems."

Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge stressed that net neutrality must be enforced in some way. But Sohn said, "Let me talk about the biggest straw man--that is, that any net neutrality requirement entails massive regulation... There can be a light regulatory cut that deals with the core issue. But again, I think the question you have to ask yourself is, "Do we want to really empower the consumer?" Adam Thierer of The Progress & Freedom Foundation disagreed with Sohn, stating that connectivity and access requirements should be left fully to market forces. "(N)et neutrality proponents seem to ignore that competition in the creation of networks is every bit as important, if not more important, than the competition in goods and services that get sold for traffic over existing networks... Let's not just start imposing these regulations in what is an increasingly competitive and contestable industry. Let's have faith in markets."

The transcript of this event and more information concerning upcoming events can be found on the PFF website.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation