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By | Austin Modine 28th June 2007 18:29

FTC sides against Net Neutrality

Let God sort 'em out

The Federal Trade Commission has cautioned against regulations that would ensure telecom providers treat all internet traffic the same way.

In a report released late Wednesday, the FTC's Internet Access Task Force accepted arguments posed by cable and phone companies that government intervention in Net Neutrality is unnecessary, as competition would prevent internet providers from taking advantage of customers.

“This report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving, dynamic industry of broadband Internet access, which generally is moving toward more – not less – competition," chairman Deborah Majoras said. "In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area.”

The report concludes that allowing companies such as AT&T and Comcast to break internet traffic into tiers for data prioritization and exclusive deals can benefit consumers.

Majoras went on to say before a lawyers' group Wednesday that the agency was unaware of any market failure or consumer harm in the high-speed internet market.

In unrelated news - wink, wink, nudge, nudge - union group Communication Workers of America released a state-by-state report Monday that showed US internet connection speeds are far behind other industrialized nations.

Telecoms applauded the FTC report.

"The Federal Trade Commission report confirms that there is no problem to fix," Verizon executive VP Tom Tauke said. "Proposals to impose new regulation actually threaten further advancements in broadband internet conections. That hurts consumers by denying them new and better services."

The FTC noted that three federal agencies — the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice, and the FTC — have jurisdiction to address any future broadband internet access issues. The FTC vows to to "vigorously" enforce antitrust and consumer protection laws.

In further unrelated news, last week lawmakers blasted the FTC for failing to implement legislation passed as far back as 2003 to protect consumers against credit errors.

Net neutrality advocates caution that without regulations, internet access providers will slow down or block traffic for certain content. Internet service providers such as Google and Yahoo worry that cable operators will discriminate against their data — particularly as the operators begin to produce similar services.

Last year the FCC approved a AT&T merger with BellSouth, making the company control more than half the telephone and internet access lines in the US. To win the merger's approval, AT&T agreed to to maintain net neutrality with high speed internet traffic for two years. ®

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