I published an article for CNET late last night on a spirited debate at CES yesterday over the FCC’s recently-enacted “open Internet” rules, aka net neutrality. Panelists from the FCC, Congress, AT&T, Verizon, Google and the Center for Democracy and Technology actually agreed on one point, which is that the neutrality saga has only completed its first chapter.
(The session was the most popular of the day. Several people were turned away from the packed room, and former Congressman Rick Boucher and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn almost didn’t get in!)
While some panelists believe the next step is more regulation, others promised Congressional and perhaps court challenges aimed at undoing the Commission’s “Christmas Surprise.” As I note in the piece, the new Congress, with its Republican majority in the House, has already taken up reversing the rulemaking as a priority. Rep. Marsha Blackburn has introduced legislation, signed by 60 other members including at least one Democrat, that would make clear the FCC’s lack of authority over broadband access.
And Neil Fried, senior counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, promised the overfull audience that the Committee would take up the FCC’s “overreaching” as its first tech agenda item.
At the Tech Policy Summit at last year’s CES, the neutrality panel featured current and former White House staffers Susan Crawford and Andrew McLaughlin, as well as more outspoken neutrality advocates from public interest groups.
Yesterday’s panel, by contrast, had industry representatives from Verizon, AT&T and Google, along with David Sohn of CDT, whose rhetoric was far less fiery than that of his counterparts last year.
So it seems the net neutrality fight is still on, and drawing even bigger audiences. But at least at CES the White House and the most vocal public interest groups have both gone quiet, at least for now.
Today’s sessions include an interview with Chairman Julius Genachowski and a panel featuring the other FCC Commissioners. Stay tuned for more news.