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Harold Feld and others on the AT&T Net Neutrality decision

I find the FCC’s decision very hard to parse, but fortunately there are a whole bunch of wicked smart people on the Web to help. (I hesitate to point out that “wicked” is New Englandese for “very,” since these folks are the opposite of wicked in the Wizard of Oz sense.) In fact, Harold Feld points to a whole bunch of them in his careful consideration of what this decision means. Harold would rather that the FCC had rejected the merger, but, he writes:

But we have gained three very significant things:

1) A clear definition of network neutrality that covers the transport chain from the backbone to the final residential end user.Forgive language that would get me an FCC fine, but that’s fucking huge. A number of us have been very worried about the vertical integration of

backbone and residential delivery, and having a definition that covers this issue, one that could be ported into federal legislation, isenormous.

2) Network neutrality will apply to WiMax point to point. This breaks the wireless barrier. We have established that ANY non-mobile platform,regardless of medium of transmission, can be and should be subject to network neutrality. Again, that’s fucking huge.

3) We just took the biggest, baddest player on the block, the most defiant anti-NN company, and made them cry uncle in public. As Matt Stoller explains, we have made Ed Whitacre and his chorus of industry shills eat their words that we can’t define net neutrality or come up with a way to “regulate” the network that doesn’t create impossibly large costs of service or prevent companies from making money. AT&T can hardly turn around an yelp about how accepting net neutrality makes it impossible to do profitable build outs when they just agreed to both net neutrality and universal deployment of broadband. When the telcos and cable cos try to trot out their tired arguments in the next Congress, they will have to explain why the great spokeman for that argument, good old Ed “no using my pipes for free” Whitacre, has shown by his actions that net neutrality and unviersal affordable bradband can happily coexist.

For other views: Tim Karr, Tim Wu, Matt Stoller, Susan Crawford, Jeff Pulver, David Burstein and David Isenberg. In fact, here’s Isenberg summing up:

So, in summary, we have a service, U-verse, that is exempt from Network Neutrality (and specifically, that is exempt from the “Freedom (or entitlement) to attach legal devices of our choosing,” AND we have the customer’s set top box exempt from the scope of the agreement, we have provided AT&T/BS the means to render the proposed Network Neutrality condition on the merger violable, and, if Susan’s interpretation of U-verse is correct, so weak as to be meaningless. Unless, of course, the telco is a good guy, obeys the spirit of the agreement, and would never use the loopholes it engineered into the agreement against the agreement’s spirit.

The agreement is, indeed, a great victory. We just need a few words fixed. How about removing the IPTV restriction, for starters. Or including the customer premises device in the Network Neutrality provisions, so we can, truly, attach any legal device.

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