SLA to FTC: Don't Take Shortsighted Approach to Internet Neutrality; SLA Has Called on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to Reconsider Its Decision to Abandon Internet Neutrality

Information Outlook, October 2007 | Go to article overview

SLA to FTC: Don't Take Shortsighted Approach to Internet Neutrality; SLA Has Called on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to Reconsider Its Decision to Abandon Internet Neutrality


In a letter to FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, SLA called the commission's June 2007 report, Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy, shortsighted, and the FTC's decision a threat to an open, robust, and independent Internet. SLA urged the FTC to take another look at the Internet neutrality issue.

The 170-page report accepted many of the arguments made by cable operators and telephone companies that government intervention was unjustified because competitive forces were producing many consumer benefits, including content innovations and network investment by access providers.

"The FTC has adopted the view that because the Internet is operating well today, there is no regulatory need to protect it tomorrow," said Janice R. Lachance, SLA's chief executive officer. "The commission has taken the logic behind the saying, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' and has turned it completely on its head by seeming to suggest, 'If it ain't broke, don't protect it.' Do we really want to roll the dice when it comes to the public's continued open-access to Internet applications and content? SLA thinks the answer is 'No.'"

The FTC report, which does not carry the force of law, is intended to guide policy on "Internet connectivity in general and network neutrality in particular, as developed from meetings between the FTC Internet Access Task Force, various interested parties, and the FTC staff's independent research." The report contains a number of "suggested guiding principles" for future policy creation.

In a June 2007 statement, Majoras said, "this report recommends that policy makers proceed with caution in the evolving dynamic industry of broadband Internet access, which generally is moving toward more--not less--competition." She continued, "In the absence of significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm, policy makers should be particularly hesitant to enact new regulation in this area."

Lachance, a member of the U.S. delegation to the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society, and a participant in the United Nations' Internet Governance Forum, is actively involved in efforts in the United States and internationally to ensure the Internet continues to remain independent and open in order to meet the needs of information professionals, librarians, their customers and the public.

"I understand the need for policymakers to be cautious about taking action on every possible problem the country faces," said Lachance. "If, however, the government had waited until our national wilderness areas had been blighted before protecting these scenic treasures, what would have been the point? The Internet may be a treasure of a completely different kind, but it merits our protection so as to ensure it remains open and accessible to all who can benefit from it," she said.

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