WASHINGTON DC: The Federal Communications Commission is to study the business practices of broadband providers to ensure all web traffic is treated equally. The so-called 'net neutrality' inquiry will respond to calls from internet companies and consumer groups for the government to regulate against telcos striking deals for preferential access.
The study will focus on how web providers are managing traffic on their networks and whether they are charging different prices for different speeds or levels of service, the FCC says.
Commission chairman Kevin Martin says the inquiry will collect evidence - if any exists - of abuses, plus information for the public record about internet business practices. This data, he declares, will foster a more informed debate.
The net neutrality issue is putting pressure on major telcos such as AT&T and Verizon who argue that regulation is not necessary because the marketplace already polices their actions.
Comments Verizon executive Suzanne Guyer: "We believe this inquiry will show a healthy broadband marketplace in which consumers have access to a growing number of choices. Net neutrality — better named net regulation — is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist."
The FCC commissioners also voted to treat wireless broadband service in the same manner as other forms of web technologies (such as DSL and cable broadband), largely exempting it from many of the regulations governing traditional telecoms services.
In addition, the commissioners have been busy berating food manufacturers and media companies over the "national crisis" of childhood obesity.
The first meeting of a government/industry task force heard calls for a "plan of action" by July. Thundered Republican presidential candidate Senator Sam Brownback: "Nineteen percent of kids are overweight. That's just unacceptable. We must take responsible action to protect the nation's children."
Among the businesses represented on the task force are the Walt Disney Company, General Mills and PepsiCo. It also includes members of health and consumer groups.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online and AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff