Inside net neutrality with FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell


Just as the term "net neutrality" means different things to different people, the same can be said for the term "managed services". Additionally, if some companies view that as a regulatory regime will favor certain services, they could have incentives to focus more of their resources on developing such services at the expense of other services. Additionally and conversely, if the rules lock in a certain definition for such services, companies could be less creative in the future in developing new technologies.

Switching to wireless, you often point out that open access mandates in 700Mhz auctions constituted the initial steps toward network management regulation of wireless. Will mandating these standards or sustaining them as voluntary standards stimulate or freeze network investment and innovation, or turn out to be neutral?

As an initial matter, I have long advocated application and device portability as well as free and open networks. Consumers want these features, and the market started working on delivering them years before unnecessary, counterproductive and after-the-fact Commission mandates. In the absence of regulatory mandates, U.S. wireless carriers have -- and continue to --  ring consumers the mobile Internet services they demand.

In 2007, I cast the only dissenting vote against auction rules for the 700MHz band because they included "open access" mandates concerning devices and applications for some, but not all, blocks of that spectrum. I dissented partly because evidence in the record convinced me that new rules were unnecessary. Marketplace forces, otherwise known as consumer demand, were moving network providers in that direction anyway.

I also feared that the open access mandates would undermine the commission's goal of encouraging entry of new providers into wireless services. I was especially concerned that larger carriers would avoid the nationwide, encumbered spectrum and outbid smaller players for the regional, unregulated spectrum blocks. It gives me no joy to report that my fears proved to be correct -- the smaller providers did indeed lose out.