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CU urges open internet, transparency

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Consumers Union Urges Open Internet, Transparency at FCC Workshop

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, testified today about the need for an open Internet and the importance of transparency among Internet service providers at a workshop hosted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Today’s FCC workshop is the fourth in a series devoted to how to preserve a free and open Internet as the commission considers net neutrality rules.
Consumers Union strongly believes the networks that deliver the Internet should treat all web sites and applications equally. Net neutrality rules are needed, the organization says, to ensure consumers can access the Internet content they choose. Internet service providers should not be able to play favorites among web sites by slowing or blocking subscribers’ ability to access certain sites.
Kelsey today said net neutrality rules should be aimed at alleviating the market harm caused by the lack of information available to consumers and regulators on network management practices.
“The Commission should require Internet Service Providers to regularly disclose high-level information to subscribers on how network management practices are likely to affect the end-user experience, as well as detailed information on the purposes, methods and reasons for particular network management practices,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey said Consumers Union agrees with the FCC’s assertion that transparency discourages harmful market behavior, and information regarding network management practices should be publicly disclosed.
“Communications markets function best when consumers have access to accurate, consistent and meaningful information,” Kelsey testified. “This is especially true when limited competition constrains consumer choice and dilutes the incentives among providers to provide an accurate representation of the services being offered.”
Kelsey added: “Internet subscribers pay high price points for service each month, and assume that their subscription grants them the freedom to post and access the content of their choice. However, this is not the case. Service providers reserve the right to block content, cut service off, and to apply arbitrary caps or usage fees to monthly bills with little or absolutely no notice to their subscribers. As a matter of good consumer disclosure policy, the FCC should stop ISPs from describing binding terms and conditions within a multi-page legal document in eight-point font.”
Kelsey’s full testimony is available online at http://www.consumersunion.org/pdf/Transparency-Jan2010.pdf
David Butler
(202) 462-6262
Consumers Union of United States, Inc., publisher of Consumer Reports®, is a nonprofit membership organization chartered in 1936 to provide consumers with information, education, and counsel about goods, services, health and personal finance. Consumers Union’s publications and services have a combined paid circulation of approximately 8.3 million. These publications regularly carry articles on Consumers Union’s own product testing; on health, product safety, and marketplace economics; and on legislative, judicial, and regulatory actions that affect consumer welfare. Consumers Union’s income is solely derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, its other publications and services, fees, noncommercial contributions and grants. Consumers Union’s publications and services carry no outside advertising and receive no commercial support.