October 22, 2009, 9:43 PM — As he took the stage Thursday morning to deliver his keynote address at the Supercomm convention, AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey said he felt like he was at a "funeral" for the broadband industry.
The reason for this gloomy assessment was today's unanimous vote by the FCC to start a rulemaking process that could result in a network neutrality rules being codified into law."
"I feel like something sad is going to happen at the FCC today," he said glumly.
Although most companies at this year's Supercomm did not offer such apocalyptic assessments, they did express anxiety or reservations about how net neutrality could impact their businesses. The big worry from the ISPs' perspective is that the FCC is considering rules that would bar carriers from favoring certain types of content or applications over others or from degrading traffic of Internet companies that offer services similar to those of the carriers."
The reason that many carriers have come out in opposition to these proposed regulations is that they're worried that the rules will relegate them to the status of "dumb pipes" that are unable to effectively make money on value-added services. Additionally they claim that net neutrality regulations will restrict their abilities to effectively manage their networks. Major Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and eBay, meanwhile, have strongly supported net neutrality principles because they fear that incumbent carriers will favor their own content over their competitors' or that they'll create tiered services that will deliver some content at high speeds at the expense of other content.
Since Supercomm is an event tailored specifically for ISPs and broadband equipment vendors, it's unsurprising that some high-profile speakers and vendors expressed concerns about the FCC's proposals. Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg, whose company today released a joint statement with Google offering qualified support for some open Internet initiatives, said that the push for net neutrality was due to a fundamental misunderstanding on the nature of the Internet. Seidenberg particularly attacked the idea that carriers should be considered "dumb pipes" whose sole job is to neutrally push traffic from content providers.