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FCC's Genachowski reinforces call for rules on net neutrality

October 08, 2009|Alex Pham

SAN DIEGO — The nation's chief telecommunications regulator Wednesday reiterated the Obama administration's call for rules to ensure the free flow of Internet traffic, regardless of whether the data traveled over wired Internet connections or over wireless cellular networks.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a speech to wireless-industry executives attending the CTIA conference here, said the administration's goal in creating rules would be to eliminate "confusion" over the nation's so-called net neutrality policy, which has existed as a guideline rather than a mandate.

Genachowski, who took office about three months ago, said he advocated "sensible rules of the road" that would "make sure the Internet is open." Such rules would, for example, prevent Internet service providers from blocking access to certain websites or deliberately slowing down specific types of data, such as videos.

Telecommunications and cable firms have opposed such rules, while Internet companies including Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. favor net neutrality.

In a nod to the cellular phone industry, Genachowski acknowledged that the FCC would consider separate sets of rules for wireless networks, whose capacity for data-intensive traffic is far more limited.

Facing a thirtyfold increase in wireless Internet traffic over the next five years with only a threefold increase in network capacity, Genachowski calls the gap a "looming spectrum crisis."

From uploading and watching video on phones to accessing electronic textbooks on tablet readers, the use of wireless connectivity is expected to explode. Genachowski proposed two solutions: making more efficient use of the current network and freeing up more airwaves such as the ones the FCC auctioned off last year.

Genachowski called for a "fact-based, data-driven" open dialogue with the industry.

One executive, AT&T mobility and consumer markets chief Ralph de la Vega, took Genachowski up on the offer.

De la Vega, whose speech directly followed Genachowski's, said he saw "no abuses today" in the industry, obviating the need for regulation on net neutrality.

"We need to be careful when we deal with the most vibrant wireless market in the world," De la Vega warned, later concluding, "Customers will assess value, and they will pick winners and losers."

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alex.pham@latimes.com

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