Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wireless is no exception to net neutrality

After reading 113,038 comments on the preservation of an open Internet, you might think the Federal Communications Commission would have enough information to make its rules about net neutrality.

Not so. Once again the FCC has invited public comment, this time about two specific issues: whether net neutrality rules should apply to wireless broadband, and whether ISP’s should be allowed to offer “specialized services” that would fall outside the net neutrality purview. Let’s talk about the wireless issue this time, and touch base later about specialized services.

The big ISP’s argue wireless should be exempt from open Internet rules because of an alleged spectrum crunch, and the obvious physical differences between wireline and wireless networks.

Wireless traffic is predicted to increase by almost 4000% from 2009 to 2014 (yikes) and there is a limited amount of spectrum available to handle the traffic, they say.

Also, unlike physical wireline or fiber networks where ISP’s can plot the location of their customers and connections and plan accordingly, wireless customers move around all over the place all the time, and sometimes crowd together in areas. The Obama inauguration on the Mall when millions gathered and sent photos of themselves back home or to Facebook might be an example.

I am excited about filing comments with the FCC as the Digital Democracy Project Director for Common Cause urging the good Commissioners to protect the Internet and keep it open – regardless of how one accesses it. Traffic jams and crowding are in fact very good reasons to have basic rules of the road apply and be enforceable. Don’t you think?

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