Net neutrality becomes an issue again, at CES

Verizon and FCC representatives tiff over how little to regulate the 'net

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Most of the attention at this week's CES was on glitzy new products, but at the show's Tech Policy Summit attendees got a chance to raise important issues with people other than just tech vendors.

A presentation and discussion with FCC Chief of Staff Ed Lazarus turned contentious as the audience raised objections to the FCC's Dec. 21 ruling creating a two-tier Internet.

The audience also questioned panelist Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive VP, but Tauke quickly took off on Verizon's own complaints about the process.

Verizon doesn't like that the FCC is only regulating the carriers -- not OS devlopers, app providers and anyone else whose products ever touch the Internet in any way. And he's not sure it's up to the FCC to decide on its own whether it can regulate the Internet.

He passed on the opportunity to say whether Verizon would sue to change the policies.

Lazarus defended both the ruling and the FCC's right to declare itself "the cop on the beat" for the Internet, even though most of the rules it created address problems it has not documented as having occurred.

House Republicans weighed in against the ruling even before the new year brought them majority status in the House of Representatives and what they've described as a mission to fix the errors of the recent past.

So it should be interesting to see if their attempts to dismantle net neutrality move forward and, if so, whether their take on it makes things even worse for those of us who have to use the Internet, not just profit from having built it.

Technology and end-user companies have weighed in as favoring consumer-protection regulations that would keep carriers from squeezing them or content providers for either financial or competitive reasons.

Net neutrality may go to court or be dismantled in the house. So far, though, it's only the audience -- sitting in the uncomfortable chairs in the dark and being ignored most of the time -- who are saying anything in favor of protecting anyone except the carriers.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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