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US football through the Net Neutrality looking glass

FCC, big cable, and net newts again

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Speedy action by the FCC proves that new legislation is needed - because the FCC can't act speedily, campaigners claimed this week.

Huh?

It's net neutrality, as channelled through the spirit of Lewis Carroll.

On July 13, US telco regulator the Federal Communications Commission approved the transfer of Adelphia, a bankrupt cable provider, to Time Warner Cable. Adelphia has about 3.5m subscribers.

On August 1, Time Warner dropped the NFL Network from Adelphia subscribers' bundles, explaining that NFL had demanded a huge price increase. The channel filed an Emergency Petition for Declartory Ruling and Enforcement Order with the FCC the same day.

The decision to axe the nation's second favourite pastime (or third, if you count barbecuing) swiftly drew 30,000 complaints. On August 3, the FCC's rapid response unit, its Media Bureau, ordered Time Warner to reinstate the channel. In a decision issued on Monday, the FCC reiterated its explaination that Time Warner had failed to give the required 30 days notice.

Both cable provider and network battle on, and the issue has been bounced up to the five FCC commissioners.

So what, has this got to do with the price of fish? DC lobby group Public Knowledge, issued this statement in the wake of the FCC ruling:

"We are pleased that the [FCC] Media Bureau upheld its decision requiring Time Warner to reinstate the NFL Network to more than one million cable subscribers. This dispute shows perfectly why Net Neutrality is necessary," explained Public Knowledge president Giga Sohn.

"The cable model, with the cable operator as gatekeeper of content, should not be applied to the Internet, but the danger is that it will without strong non-discrimination legislation."

The case for new, pre-emptive "net neutrality" legislation is based on the premise that existing regulatory agencies move too slowly to be effective. But when the regulatory agencies move swiftly, the case for new, pre-emptive regulation is stronger than ever.

No, it doesn't make any sense to us either.

"The question, said Alice, is whether you can make words mean so many different things... "®

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