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FCC Hearing on Broadband Practices: Free, Regulation, and the Bible

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Rafat Ali
Friday, April 18, 2008; 12:07 AM

FCC's much anticipated hearing on broadband access and management practices happened today, and a range of voices were heard at the hearing. At stake, according to the speakers: copyrights, Internet investment, consumer choice in entertainment and even freedom of religion. Video archives from the hearing are here.

FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein called for the agency to strengthen its power to prevent Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and its competitors from unfairly discriminating against some customers, reports AP. But two others, Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell, warned against burdening the industry with additional, costly regulations. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin played the quasi-neutral game on it, but leaning towards anti-regulation: he argued that the FCC's current Internet policy is sufficient, but it needs to be enforced to guarantee that whatever actions ISPs are taking "is tailored to a legitimate purpose." He also said that Comcast and other companies should be permitted to manage their networks to ensure traffic flows smoothly, but that customers should be given notice.

Comcast has been the target of complaints about pro-actively managing and possibly discrimination against the bits on its network.The company officials declined the FCC's invitation to testify at the hearing Thursday. It recently announced that it is working with BitTorrent and Pando Networks to help develop better files sharing optimization across its networks, and create a "bill of rights" for consumers and ISPs.

Some other voices: Songwriter Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America, applauded moves by AT&T (NYSE: T) to detect and block sharing of pirated music. Jean Prewitt, president and CEO of the Independent Film and Television Alliance, advocated network neutrality to prevent the Internet becoming like TV, which limits entertainment options.

But the most surprising voice was Michele Combs of the conservative Christian Coalition of America, who came out most strongly in favor of neutrality. She said Comcast had blocked sharing of the digital text of the Bible and could also block online programming from her organization in favor of its own Christian-oriented channel.

Statement from FCC commisioners: Copps| Adelstein| Tate

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