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Can we trust telecom firms on net neutrality?

April 14, 2010|Michael Hiltzik

That's not the case in most parts of the country, where there are at most two competitors, the cable company and the phone company, and often only one that works. (Verizon competes with Time Warner Cable in my neighborhood, but it can't deliver decent Internet speeds to my home -- so effectively I've got no choice.)

That makes net neutrality the perfect issue for government oversight. But how to regulate? Some net neutrality advocates weren't entirely comfortable with the FCC's authority, in part because the FCC is a political agency and political winds can shift.

At the moment the commission is determined to uphold net neutrality and otherwise leave the Web alone. "But we might not like the next FCC," says Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Will we have to worry about the FCC someday announcing an indecency policy for the Internet?"

The better solution, he says, would be for Congress to give the agency specific but limited authority to force Internet service providers to maintain net neutrality. A bill to do so has been introduced by Reps. Edward J. Markey (D.-Mass.) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park).

Does it have a prayer?

"Politically it will be tough," Von Lohmann told me. "The odds of passing something like that over the objections of Comcast, AT&T and Verizon might be a long shot."

Thank goodness those companies have only their customers' interests at heart.

Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at, read past columns at, and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.

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