Verizon makes makes bid to let fox guard henhouse

Carrier suggests regulations be scrapped, replaced without "antiquated" regulations

Verizon has updated its position on net neutrality. Verizon is no longer interested in the joint proposal it made with Google in August that wired networks should be relatively neutral but wireless could be skewed as much as the carrier liked.

It wants to eliminate the current regulations and limits on its activities and draft a new law that puts an appropriate part of the blame for blocking, bandwidth throttling and network isolation on the culprits who have escaped scrutiny until now: operating system vendors.

The proposal came during a panel discussion at a meeting of the ultra-conservative and very powerful Federalist Society in Washington.

Verizon's top spokesperson Tom Tauke, who followed up his panel performance with a press release, said the FCC should look at net neutrality from the point of view of the user, taking into account the interface and computer (and, presumably the table, the mouse and the coffee that's gotten way too cold to ensure fair treatment on the Internet's backbone) as well as the telecom infrastructure the FCC traditionally regulates.

He had four recommendations:

  • Rules should be a federal framework, so the carriers don't have to deal with legislatures or restrictive rules in a lot of states;
  • the framework should rely on case-by-case judgments in court or in front of a regulatory body (which is too expensive for most customers) and should not involve "anticipatory" rulemaking, which presumably means telling the carriers ahead of time not to do things like set up phones so it's easy to make accidental data connections and then charge customers for doing it;
  • the test for whether the government should intervene is if customers are clearly being harmed or to limit anti-competitive activity -- which actually sounds legitimate, but given the completely ad hoc process of determining what carriers should do or what harms customers, I don't see this going a customer's way too often;
  • And a single federal agency -- like, say, the FCC? -- should have jurisdiction.

It's too bad there aren't more folksy aphorisms and proverbs in discussions about technology regulation, because this is the best example I've seen of the fox trying to decide who guards the hen house.

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

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