Net NeutralityJanuary 17, 2007Federal Issues CommitteeThe following is for study only and has NOT been approved by the Board of Directors.Issue: Should C.A.R, in conjunction with NAR, adopt a neutral position on proposed ‘net neutrality’ provisions in any federal telecommunications legislation?
Action is requested at this time to due to expected upcoming legislation
Options: 1. Support 2. Oppose 3. Neutral 4. Not Real Estate Related 5. Other
The 109th Congress took up H.R. 5252, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006 in order to overhaul and regulate the nation's phone, cable, Internet, and television industries. The major sticking point which caused H.R. 5252 to never get out of the 109th Congress was over “net neutrality”. Net neutralityis the debate over whether internet service providers should be regulated in the same manner as a public utility or whether they should be allowed to continue as a free market enterprise.
The issue of netneutrality will reappear during the 110th Congress in another major reform attempt of the U.S. telecommunications industries. Those supporting more extensive net neutrality language argue that without legislation, net neutrality will become a thing of the past. They charge that the June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court “Brand X” ruling allows broadband providers to engage in (1) non-neutral practices such as blocking, slowing or degrading access to networks that compete with the broadband provider's own and (2) instituting pricing "tiers" for different levels of network access used by content providers.
Opponents of more prescriptive net neutrality language argue that detailed net neutrality rules would (1) impose regulatory burdens on Internet participants that will stifle innovation, (2) ignore the competitive pressures broadband providers face, (3) prohibit necessary network security practices and (4) shift network expansion costs to consumers.Background:
The idea of net neutrality is that the internet is open to all that are able to access it and that everybody able to access the internet has equal availability to services and information.These principles have guided the development of the Internet to date. Net neutrality principles calls upon designers of the individual networks that together make up the Internet, to create their section of the Internet in a manner that allows any computer connected to the network to send information to any other computer on the Internet with minimal interference. A network designed to be perfectly neutral does not discriminate against any other network or hardware, software, language, culture, disability, or types of data.
The outcome of net neutrality could impact the future functioning of the Internet. Proponents of regulation fear that if allowed to continue, the internet will become a utility that has various tiers of access depending on what services a user is willing and/or able to pay for. Opponents believe that the free market will continue to maintain the openness of the internet with greater expansion of possibility by private innovation. REALTORS® concerns are that there are not increased costs to real estate firms as they maintain their presence on the internet and work to expand their access to consumers.Pro:
Proponents of net neutrality are advocating for more extensive regulations to guarantee that the access, use, and utility, of the Internet remains open and equal for all users. They argue that there are certain current standards in the internet service provider industry that need further regulations. One argument is that broad competition does not exist in the broadband industry as most U.S. residents only have the choice between one or two broadband carriers. Additionally, these carriers currently have no law preventing them from blocking competing content or services and therefore forcing the consumer to rely solely on their products. Furthermore, this kind of control allows the larger providers to thwart small startup internet companies.When it comes to the issue of fairness and equal access on the internet, proponents of net neutrality regulations warn that broadband providers will be tempted to seek profits by offering contracts to large e-commerce companies which allow them higher speeds and services as well as priority on the internet. This would create a two-tier access to customers and further the digital divide.
Those opposed to stricter regulations on internet providers predominately fear that the regulations will impose new and unnecessary burden on the industry. These regulations are being called for out of a fear of “what could happen in the industry”, not current problems that users of the internet are experiencing. Opponents believe that the free market itself will stop businesses from poor practices, such as blocking the content of other providers, as this would upset their current customers. The free market will keep providers from limiting services or slowing down access to the internet as users would all shift to providers who offered better services.Opponents want to allow the market, which they believe will do a better job than regulations, to govern how net neutrality works. Additionally, the internet providers are running a business, not a public utility such as water orpower. Government regulations put undue burdens onto these businesses and will decrease the development of the internet and reduce competition. The age of the internet might still be in its youth. Next generation issues include streaming television, movies, and videos across broadband access instead of traditional cable lines. These future moves will require large amounts of bandwidth to be used and need to have a stable access tobandwidth in order to properly function. These moves might necessitate the needs for changes in internet access and speeds. These changes will be impossible if there is strict government regulations on the internet and can therefore stifle the next generations of internet technologies.
For REALTORS® there is an added concern brought up concerning the issue of net neutrality. Some advise that it would be unwise for REALTORS® to advocate for greater government intervention and regulations when the real estate industry is itself in the middle of battling charges of anti-competitiveness and has argued that businesses, like real estate and the cooperative multiple listing services, and markets should be allowed to operate without excessive interference.
Impact on REALTORS®:The impact for REALTORS® is mainly in two areas. The first is that REALTORS® are starting to use the internet more and more to both advertise their business and to recruit business.REALTORS® concerns are that there are not increased costs to real estate firms as they maintain their presence onthe internet and work to expand their access to consumers. Second, REALTORS® have a specific concern when it comes to debates over anti-competitiveness and government regulations. Some advise that it would be unwise for REALTORS® to advocate for greater government intervention and regulations when the real estate industry is itself in the middle of battling charges of anti-competitiveness and has argued that businesses, like real estate and the cooperative multiple listing services, and markets should be allowed to operate without excessive interference.NAR Policy:
In November 2006 NAR took policy on net neutrality which stated“That NAR adopt a neutralposition on proposed ‘net neutrality’ provisions in any federal telecommunications legislation.”C.A.R. Policy:C.A.R. currently does not have any policy on net neutrality.
ShouldC.A.R, in conjunction with NAR, adopt a neutral position on proposed ‘net neutrality’ provisions in any federal telecommunications legislation?