The Federal Trade Commission will host a two-day public workshop on "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy" in Washington, DC on February 13 and 14, 2007. The workshop will bring together experts from business, government, and the technology sector, consumer advocates, and academics to explore competition and consumer protection issues relating to broadband Internet access, including so-called "network neutrality."
The FTC's Internet Access Task Force, convened by Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras in August 2006, is organizing the workshop. The Task Force, led by Maureen K. Ohlhausen, Director of the FTC's Office of Policy Planning, with participants from throughout the agency, seeks to enhance the FTC's expertise in the area of Internet access. Since Chairman Majoras publicly invited interested parties to meet with the Task Force last August, it has heard a wide variety of views on the subjects of broadband Internet access in general and network neutrality in particular.
The workshop will explore issues raised by recent legal and regulatory determinations that providers of certain broadband Internet services, such as cable modem and DSL, are not subject to the Federal Communications Commission's common-carrier regulations. In the absence of such regulations, some have raised concerns about broadband Internet service providers discriminating against, degrading, or blocking users' access to unaffiliated content and applications. In addition, concerns have been raised regarding ISPs and other network operators charging providers of unaffiliated content and applications fees for prioritized delivery of their products to end users. To prevent harm to competition and consumers from these and other related types of conduct, some have advocated network neutrality regulation that would require equal treatment of all Internet traffic.
In response, opponents of network neutrality have argued that such regulation would have adverse consequences for innovation and competition in the market for broadband access by, among other things, making it more difficult for ISPs and other network operators to recoup their investments in broadband networks. Opponents also have argued that such regulation is unnecessary because: 1) to date there is insufficient evidence of harm to competition or consumers to warrant such regulation; 2) competitive conditions in the market for broadband access will protect consumers from the harm anticipated by net neutrality proponents; and 3) the antitrust and consumer protection laws, as well as FCC oversight, are sufficient to address any harms that may arise.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the FTC's satellite building conference center, located at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC Members of the public and press who wish to participate but who cannot attend can view a live Webcast of the workshop on the FTC's Web site. For admittance to the conference center, all attendees will be required to show a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver's license. Pre-registration is not necessary, but is encouraged. To pre-register, please e-mail your name and affiliation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FTC staff will identify and invite individuals with relevant expertise to participate as panelists at the workshop. The staff also may invite self-nominees to be workshop panelists. Panelist applications should be submitted electronically to email@example.com on or before January 15, 2007. The FTC asks interested parties to include a statement detailing their expertise on the issues to be addressed at the workshop and complete contact information. Panelists selected to participate will be notified by February 1, 2007.
Any person may submit written comments on the topics to be addressed at the workshop. Comments must be received on or before February 28, 2007. For further information about the workshop and for specific information on sending comments, pre-registering, participating as a panelist, the workshop agenda, and contact information, please consult the FTC Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/opp/workshops/broadband/index.html.