The debate around network neutrality remains a hot topic of discussion among telecom companies and service providers.
Tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission will hold its second public hearing on broadband network management practices at Stanford University.
Federal regulators say they are considering taking steps to prevent cable and telephone companies from delaying the downloads and uploads of heavy Internet users.
"Obviously network operators can take reasonable steps to manage traffic, but they cannot arbitrarily block access", says FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
Emotions ran high in February when a similar hearing was held at Harvard Law School. At that hearing the venue filled up early and many people who wished to get in could not. Comcast later admitted to paying people off the street to hold places in line for its employees.
Both of these public hearings were scheduled, in part, because of consumer complaints that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, has been slowing down Internet traffic of the file-sharing service BitTorrent.
Comcast argues that the growing popularity of peer-to-peer applications like video-sharing was straining the network, degrading other less-intense uses like Web surfing. Consumer groups and critics say discriminating against some content providers is simply a way for Comcast to get rid of the competition and that assuring network neutrality through regulation is necessary to prevent U.S. broadband providers from blocking or slowing their customers’ connections to Web sites or services that compete with services offered by the providers.
"Today there is a lack of competition in broadband which makes it possible for the party that controls the physical access to the Internet to favor that company’s applications," says Vint Cerf, vice president of Google and co-inventor of the Internet. "Many broadband suppliers suppress what should be an open media. Not only will that suppress open expression, but it will also suppress innovation."
The FCC will hear from expert panelists on broadband network management practices and Internet-related issues. There will also be a two-hour session devoted to public comment.
The hearing is open to the public, but interested citizens should show up early as seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Location: Dinkelspiel Auditorium, 471 Lagunita Drive, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
12:00 p.m. Welcome/Opening Remarks
12:45 p.m. Panel Discussion 1 – Network Management and Consumer Expectations
2:15 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. Panel Discussion 2 – Consumer Access to Emerging Internet Technologies and Applications
4:30 p.m. Public Comment
6:30 p.m. Closing Remarks
7:00 p.m. Adjournment