Kevin Martin's Answers to
Re: Network neutrality, Google, Vonage, and Madison River.
Date: February 8, 2006.
Location: American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
Todd Shields (Media Week Magazine). ... What are the next steps at the FCC on net neutrality?
Kevin Martin. ... The Commission has already demonstrated its, its kind of commitment to those principles of network neutrality, in its adopting of a Policy Statement last August, in the context of the Commission's determination that we would treat DSL services in the same deregulated, or less regulated manner, that we will treat cable modem services, trying to make sure that we are creating a level playing field for competitive, for competition to occur among platforms in the marketplace, rather than in the halls of the Commission.
So, we want to make sure that we are providing a regulatory framework that treats technologies the same when they are trying to deploy the same kind of services to end user consumers.
So, in that context last summer, we, the Commission had already provided for a ruling that said that cable modem service as a cable service, or a more regulated telecommunications service, but rather an information service. And that had gone through the courts, and the Supreme Court ruled on that last summer, upholding that decision. And when that happened, the Commission acted very quickly to try to make sure that telephone companies that were deploying their own version of high speed internet access, DSL services, were treated in a similar manner.
And, that was important, both from a competitive standpoint, and from trying to make ensure that companies have the opportunity to make investments, and compete in the marketplace, rather than at the Commission. And so, in that context, we did though adopt what would be so called network neutrality principles, of talking about how consumers should be able to access whatever content that they desire on the internet, and trying to make sure that we continue to have a free flow of information on the internet across these various networks, whether its is cable modem or DSL network.
And, in addition to that, in the context of the some of the mergers last, last fall, I think that the Commission embodied some of those in the contexts of the mergers as well. So, I think that the Commission has taken steps in the past to demonstrate its commitment to those kind of principles, and I think that the Commission will continue to do so.
Shields. What is your reaction to plans like what was reported in the Washington Post yesterday about charging Google to ride on Bell companies' pipes?
Kevin Martin. Well, you know, I think that, the Commission, as I have said, has adopted some network neutrality rules that address some ends of the, some principles, I'm sorry, that address some of the, some of the extreme issues. In other words, the Commission has said that a carrier cannot block a consumer's access. On the other hand, the Commission has indicated that carriers are able to charge consumers varying degrees of prices for varying degrees of speed that they can get, and that that is not the same thing as blocking. And I think that the issue of whether or not the carriers can charge any of the content providers, which is the issue that I think you are talking about, has come up recently. The Commission hasn't spoken to it. I think that the Commission is still trying to evaluate what that is. But that I think that it is also important that the Commission to see what is really going on. This is not just responding to a report, but rather waiting to see what actions actually get taken. But, I think there were also reports the day before that some, some of the content providers may charge their own customers, I think there was a press report the day before, for example, that Yahoo may charge some of their people to deliver their e-mails, bypassing some of the filters. So, I think that the marketplace is still evolving, and think that you have to wait and see what, what actually develops, I think, rather than just responding to press reports, we will see what actually occurs.
Ted Hearn (Multichannel News). Chairman, Jeffrey Citron of Vonage yesterday told me that a cable company, it must be a very small company, and he wouldn't name it, is blocking Vonage's service. So I said, "well, why don't you go to the FCC". He said, I want to know if you agree with this, that the FCC has forfeited its right to crack down on this cable company because cable modem service is an information service, and he was distinguishing that from Madison River. Do you agree with that?
Martin. Well, I don't know. It is hard to respond to the facts of --
Hearn. -- no his regulatory point --
Martin. -- so I have no idea. So, the Commission has, has, acted acted in the past when people were blocking internet access over broadband pipes, and the Commission has already said that broadband pipes by telecommunications companies are the same as cable companies. So, so, you know, I am not sure that I understand his point. So, I would have to, but, but more importantly, he hasn't, no one has filed anything with us, so I don't know anything about it. So, he would have to bring something to our attention before I really comment on it any further.
Question. But, broadband pipes provided by a cable company are not subject to common carrier --
Martin. Neither are broadband pipes provided by a telephone company --
Heather Weaver (RCR Wireless). But they were when Madison River was decided.
Martin. Well, no actually, the Commission had never determined that clearly one way or another. We clarified the DSL order, but I don't think that the Commission had ordered that they were under the previous common carrier regime. I think that was still an open question. I think that that was the point of our original notice, when we had acted on. So I am not sure that that is actually accurate. But, I guess what I would have to say is that for us to comment any further on it, he would have to actually file something with the Commission. Or, actually, he would have to ask the question.
Hearn. You know, that is an interesting point, just because in the Madison River case, nothing was filed. A formal complaint was not filed against Madison River.
Martin. You know, what I don't know. I wasn't the
Chairman at the time, so I don't know how they, how that was brought to their attention.
But, I think that, they certainly had some facts that were brought to their attention beyond
just someone else asking a question, more that was brought to their attention, that we acted
upon the facts. So, I don't know whether a formal complaint was filed. But I think that they
filed something with the Commission, for us know that something was happening.