Friday, May 12, 2006

Paean to the Telcos

Let's lift the lid on the COPE Act, which ostensibly "protects" network neutrality:

...The Commission shall have exclusive authority to adjudicate any complaint alleging a violation of the broadband policy statement and the principles incorporated therein. The Commission shall complete an adjudicatory proceeding under this subsection not later than 90 days after receipt of the complaint. If, upon completion of an adjudicatory proceeding pursuant to this section, the Commission determines that such a violation has occurred, the Commission shall have authority to adopt an order to require the entity subject to the complaint to comply with the broadband policy statement and the principles incorporated therein...

Ooooooooh. They can... adopt procedures! And... adopt an order!

Yes, nothing strikes fear in the telco attorneys' hearts like the dreaded "strongly-worded memo".

Further, the FCC is strictly limited to adjudicatory authority. Notably, this title of the bill does not give the FCC authority to write rules implementing or expanding any of the provisions in this policy statement.

Now consider some of the key network neutrality provisions in COPE:

To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.


The principles we adopt are subject to reasonable network management.

Put in simple terms, the carriers can easily violate the principles of neutrality by claiming either harm to the network ("You're using too much bandwidth running that Gnutella client, Smithers, so we're turning that service off") or "reasonable" network management.

Put simply, COPE is the lifetime employment act for telco lawyers. It renders the FCC utterly harmless to the carriers. Here's the formula: the carrier simply claims harm to the network or reasonable network management. The resulting complaints and appeals will wend their way through the courts for decades.

COPE is a paean to the telcos, plain as day.

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