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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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September 5, 2008 11:08 AM

Surprise, Surprise - Comcast Suing Over FCC Net Neutrality Decision

ARRGGHHH!!! Sorry, had to get that out of my system now that the net neutrality debate has entered its next phase: taking this issue to the courts.

The reason for my frustration? What good is having this issue debated in the courts do anyone? Won't it just be a huge waste of time and money simply because we couldn't get the matter resolved effectively before it got to this point?

There's a valid argument to be made that Comcast would've sued no matter what unless the FCC said that everything they're doing was fine and nothing needed to change. But throughout all these discussions of new regulations and legislation that make net neutrality into law there's been hardly any mention of the inevitable fact that if we can't come to some form of an agreement between all parties involved then we're just going to get mired down in the courts, who aren't necessarily any more well-equipped to deal with this than anyone else.

Now that this has happened everyone's saying "Well of course Comcast is suing..." yet not only was there little discussion about this inevitability, no one seems to be acknowledging Comcast's legitimate complaint that the FCC has provided no concrete details about what is and is not allowed under their net neutrality regime. How could they have known they were breaking the rules if the rules were never spelled out in detail in the first place?

Making matters worse, the FCC didn't even use this opportunity to start spelling out what network operators can do. Instead all they did was say that you can't do what Comcast was doing. For one network operator's take on this, I'm reposting the VidChat I did with Michael Johnston of Jackson Energy Authority on this topic, which ran a couple weeks ago:

Now I'm not saying this will be an easy issue to resolve. There are many different ways traffic can be managed on a network, different apps require different treatment to run most effectively, and new burdens are being placed on networks every day.

But we can't keep talking about net neutrality in ideological yet vague terms; we need to start getting into specifics. And we can't expect that we'll ever find a solution to these issues if we don't engage both sides of the debate to try and find an answer that everyone can agree to or at least tolerate, otherwise we're just going to get stuck in the courts on these issues waiting for years to get them resolved.

Because so far, this net neutrality issue continues to be an abject failure for all involved, and it will continue to weigh down all telecom-related talks until we can find a way past it, which doesn't mean one side or the other winning but instead it must involve both sides coming together, talking through their differences, respecting the legitimate concerns of the other side, and trying to find a mutually agreeable solution.

I'm hopeful that while grandiose this ideal isn't impossible. And events like the ITIF is putting on next week in DC on Tuesday appropriately called "It's Time to End the Broadband Policy Wars" will be a place where everyone engaged in these discussions in DC can come together, set aside our differences, and try to figure out what's going to be best for America.

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