ISPs, Google form advisory group on network management

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Following closely on the heels of the Federal Communications Commission's decision to try to establish some net neutrality rules, the major telephone and cable companies are teaming up with Google and a number of tech vendors to seek common ground on network management practices. The companies have formed a voluntary industry committee, called the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group, led by Dale Hatfield, a former FCC chief technologist who is now an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  

"The TAG will function as a neutral, expert technical forum and promote a greater consensus around technical practices within the Internet community," Hatfield said. "The TAG would consider a number of factors in looking at technical practices, including whether a practice is used by others in the industry; whether alternative technical approaches are available; the impact of a technical practice on other entities; and whether a technical practice is aimed at specific content, applications or companies."

The group will probably try to reach agreement on some technical issues so that they can present a united front when it comes to lobbying on this very divisive matter. (Or, as stated in the announcement, the TAG's mission may involve "attempting to address specific technical matters in an effort to minimize related policy disputes.") So far, the participants are all industry members, but they said they seek participation from users, academics and non-profit organizations as well. Google's Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt said they especially welcome involvement from the user community. "[W]e hope the BITAG can bring together some of the smartest technical minds in this space to provide some useful guidance to policymakers and Internet stakeholders alike," he wrote in Google's policy blog.

Net neutrality advocates are already warning that an industry-backed consensus must not take the place of the FCC's rulemaking process. Free Press, which promotes open Internet policies, cautioned that it is necessary to create a legal framework and regulations regarding nondiscrimination in network management.

"While there is nothing wrong with industry attempting to identify broadband network management practices that do not harm users, this or any other voluntary effort is not a substitute for the government setting basic rules of the road for the Internet," said M. Chris Riley, policy counsel for Free Press, in a statement. "Allowing industry to set its own rules is like allowing BP to regulate its drilling."

For more:
- see the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group announcement
- check out Richard Whitt's post at Google's policy blog
- check out M. Chris Riley's statement at FreePress

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