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'Edge' Investors Back Genachowski Neutrality Initiative

In the latest online letter, on the eve of the FCC's vote on a network neutrality proposal, the Open Internet Coalition has sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski from tech investors backing his proposal.

One of the criticisms of expanded and codified network neutrality rules is that they will discourage private investment in broadband deployment by cable and telco networks, a point made by some financial analysts at an FCC broadband workshop on the impact of the FCC's broadband plan on private investment. But at that same panel, investors in edge businesses, like the latest new bandwidth-rich application or innovation, saw network neutrality as a potential boon to the businesses they fund.

A group of those investors signed on to the letter Wednesday, saying that, "Clear rules to protect and promote innovation at the edges of the Internet will reinforce the core principles that led to its extraordinary social and economic benefits," they wrote. "Open markets for Internet content will drive investment, entrepreneurship and innovation. For these reasons, Net Neutrality policy is pro-investment, pro-competition, and pro-consumer."

The other side was ready with a response to that argument. The Internet Innovation Alliance (which includes AT&T and fiber supplier Corning) countered that so-called edge investments in software and online content would not be enough to offset the decline in broadband services investments "because these other sectors are simply not big enough.

The group cited Commerce Department data that the broadband services sector accounts for about 80% of the $70 billion annual investment in information, communications and technology. The FCC on Thursday (Oct. 22) is scheduled to propose new rules adding nondiscrimination and consumer information principles to its current four Internet access guidelines, as well as codifying them into rules and applying them to wireless broadband.

The announcement last month that the chairman was making that proposal had the backing of the FCC's Democratic majority, generating a lobbying frenzy and a raft of letters, pro and con, in the ensuing weeks.