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Having been a member of the Committee for this past year, I'm pleased to share that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "Open Internet Advisory Committee" has published its first annual report -- available here.

Why download and read the report?  Well, have you ever wondered about the future of the Internet, based on the economic impacts of usage based pricing and data caps?  Questioned whether open Internet is applicable to the mobile application world?  Tried to puzzle through the implications of delivering local video services over the same IP infrastructure as over the top Internet video services?  Wanted to help a parent puzzle through the merits of different Internet access providers?  If you answered yes to any of these or similar questions, you will be interested to read the Committee's reflections, captured in this report.

The report is weighty -- 98pp if you kill trees to print it. The OIAC was established as part of the US FCC Open Internet activity and Open Internet Report and Order from 2010. The FCC appointed expert committee members from a broad range of commercial, academic, and not-for-profit organizations.  Four focus areas were identified early in the year and working groups were set up to tackle specific topics, each contributing to the annual report:

  • Economic Impacts of Open Internet Frameworks
  • Mobile Ecosystem
  • Specialized Services
  • Transparency

On the whole, having been part of the sausage-making, I do have to recommend it as a useful piece in articulating many aspects of the issues that are being discussed the world over in terms of how regulators might think about handling access networks in the light of keeping the Internet open. Clearly, there are aspects of this that are capitalist-oriented, if not strictly US-centric. Nevertheless, there are no magic answers! This is a report *to* the US government, to inform its thinking on future possibilities. Other parts of the world have a very different approach to building out and ensuring high quality Internet access networks.

We would love to hear other perspectives.

Comments

Virtually no conclusions were reached; nearly every substantive issue was discussed as "some believed this and some believed that." Ten years into the debate on neutrality, it's time to establish some principles. A huge part of the committee were carrier representatives, most of whose companies oppose neutrality. So it was of course impossible to reach consensus on any important issue that affected the carriers. Since nearly everything on the net necessarily involves a carrier, that meant this committee couldn't possibly reach consensus. For example, as soon as practical, wireline datacaps should not prevent watching mostly of your TV over the net. For a typical U.S. household watching 110 hours/month, counting everything that's between 250 & 750 gigabytes/month. Time Warner Cable standard service in NY allows you to reach 750 gig, as does Verizon's. Comcast's 300 gigabyte cap covers the lower part of that range and they've said they will increase the cap over time. If they can do that today, at regular prices, then it's practical for almost every other wireline carrier to do similar. So the committee could, and should, have concluded that regular service should have a cap high enough not to get in the way of watching TV. With so many carriers on the committee, that couldn't happen. The result is a report so indecisive that it adds little to the debate. Those who believe in neutrality should have issued an independent report emphasize some basic principles. So should ISOC. Dave Burstein
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