Skip to main content

FTC's Leibowitz: Net Neutrality Rhetoric Overheated On Both Sides

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told cable operators and programmers in Los Angeles Wednesday (May 12) that he supported everything FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is doing on the network neutrality front, which would include trying to reclassify broadband transmissions under Title II common carrier regulations.

But he also said he took the cable industry at its word that it was not going to discriminate against content or applications on the Internet.

He said that promise, combined with what he called a "paucity of obvious network neutrality violations," begged the question: "Isn't the rhetoric on both sides a little overheated?"

Elsewhere in his keynote speech to an advertising session, Leibowitz had said in another context that, "to ask the
question is to answer it." That seemed to apply in this case as well.

Leibowitz may trust operators, but he also thinks the FCC needs to verify.

"With regard to net neutrality, I am on record supporting some form of non-discrimination requirement for ISPs. And this is not because I believe the cable industry wants to pick and choose what sort of content its customers receive. In fact, as I think I’ve made clear, I credit you with helping to lead us into a world where our communication, entertainment, education, and business choices are almost unlimited."

But, he said, "I do believe that we need to retain the open character of the Internet that has led to so many of the innovations that make your broadband services something that consumers want to buy. Moreover, the firms that invest so much in the Internet, like all of you here today, will benefit from clear rules of the road on net neutrality far more than you will suffer from any set of rules the FCC promulgates."

Leibowitz closed his speech with a shout out to the industry. "I want to end where I started: Thank you. Thank you
for letting a kid straight from the dentist make us laugh and a spinster from Scotland make us cry; for the Sopranos, foreign films on demand, and Top Chef; and for C-SPAN and C-SPAN radio, too. Thank you for opening the door to an unbelievable world of information and communication – and then letting us choose where to go. And thank you for your time today."