April 2007 - Broadband Internet Access

ERA CEO Speaks on FTC Panel

By Sigelinde Friedman

At the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy on February 13, 2007, ERA President and CEO Barbara Tulipane served as a panelist for a discussion on broadband connectivity. Tulipane joined executives on the distinguished panel from Google, eBay, Verizon, Cisco, EarthLink, Amazon and Comcast to discuss broadband Internet access. During the panel, which focused on quality of service, tiering and charging fees for prioritized delivery of broadband access, Tulipane stressed the need to continue a non-prioritized, “open” Internet scenario.

While she believes that providers can recoup their investment and create additional revenue streams by charging for non-Internet-related broadband applications, such as video or television, Tulipane thinks that the Internet should be separated from such broadband services. To further emphasize the problems with a “closed Internet,” she talked about the struggles ERA members endure to get carriage on cable-a closed network. If we lose this battle, ERA members’ ability to reach the customer will be dictated by those who own the pipes. They will determine price, speed and whether or not to carry you. For example, if your competitor strikes a better deal, they may refuse carrying you at all!

“This position keeps the Internet as an open network, where our smaller retailers can continue to provide consumers with content the consumer wants,” says Tulipane. “Because in today’s world the consumer is in charge.”

Further, Tulipane stresses the importance of innovation for Internet content providers. As today’s Internet is comprised of interconnected networks that do not distinguish service based on source or content, providers have been forced to innovate in order to meet consumers’ changing shopping habits. However, prioritization based on source or content will result in a closed network, and will stifle the innovation of both large and small e-retailers.

“What’s interesting about the ERA membership is that the small players may very well be a Google today, or an eBay tomorrow,” says Tulipane. “Their model for success is their ability to innovate.”

The FTC Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy brought together experts from business, government and the technology sector, consumer advocates and academics to explore competition and consumer protection issues relating to broadband Internet access, including so-called “network neutrality.” The workshop examined the capabilities and incentives of broadband Internet service providers to discriminate against, degrade, block or charge fees for prioritized delivery of unaffiliated content and applications. The workshop also addressed the potential effects of network neutrality regulation on innovation and competition in the market for broadband access.

Sieglinde Friedman is ERA’s vice president of board and strategy. She can be reached at (703) 908-1021, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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