Inside net neutrality with FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell


Actually, this is a question that would be more appropriately addressed to the chairman since he controls the FCC's agenda. Nevertheless, I question the need to pursue such a rulemaking. First, thus far no evidence of a systemic market failure in the broadband market has been presented to the commission. For instance, in 2007, the FCC conducted an inquiry into the state of the broadband market, and did not find evidence of a systemic market failure. Furthermore, during that same year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded a thorough market analysis and ultimately issued a bipartisan report after an unanimous vote that actually cautioned against the imposition of network neutrality regulations.

Second, pursuant to a congressional directive in the Stimulus Act, the FCC has been developing proposals for a National Broadband Plan. It might have made more sense to analyze and deliberate on the findings from the FCC's broadband team before jumping right into regulating network management.

Third, both the Department of Justice and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration recently filed comments in the National Broadband Plan proceeding, and neither agency made a case that a systemic market failure exists. To the contrary, DOJ's comments seemed virtually optimistic regarding the broadband market when it wrote:

Between the ongoing deployment of wireline broadband networks, the geographic expansion of wireless broadband services (hopefully spurred by the availability of additional spectrum to broadband wireless services), and increased transparency, the Department is hopeful that the vast majority of American households will benefit from significant competition in their local broadband markets. Put differently, most regions of the United States do not appear to be natural monopolies for broadband service.  --  Letter from Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, FCC, GN Docket No. 09-51, at p.28 (filed Jan. 4, 2010).

Are you concerned that mandating net neutrality would shift the industry focus from pleasing customers to manipulating regulators?