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Comcast exec calls for limited government role in Internet

November 15, 2010 | 12:57 pm

Forget the Tea Bag movement, Comcast Corp. -- the nation's biggest cable and broadband provider -- wants to get everyone behind the Bee-Tag movement.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen attempted to make the case to keep the government's role in overseeing the Internet to a minimum.

"Over the years, lawyers and lobbyists have dominated the discussion on broadband policy. And they are generally not paid to produce consensus," Cohen cracked in his remarks.

His solution is BITAG (pronounced Bee-Tag, per Cohen's speech), which is the acronym for the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group. It is comprised of several major companies including Comast, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Google and Verizon. Its goal, per a June press release announcing its formation, is to "bring together engineers and other similar technical experts to develop a consensus on broadband network management practices."

BITAG, Cohen said, "will build on the proven success of the Internet as a largely self-governing, self-healing ecosystem ... with minimal direct involvement by government."

Cohen's remarks for a very limited role in the Internet come as the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission continue their regulatory review of the cable giant's proposed deal to take over NBC Universal.

Among the chief concerns of policy makers is how Comcast will treat content online that is not its own. Several parties have asked that Comcast be forced to comply to strict regulations.  Comcast has long argued that the Internet is still in its infancy and that heavy-handed regulations will impede innovation and ultimately harm consumers.

"The Internet ... is too compex and too dynamic for government to regulate intrusively," Cohen said.

Advocacy groups strongly disagree with that sentiment and have been sounding alarm bells about the potential power the combination of Comcast and NBC Universal could have on the Internet and the need for strong conditions on the deal. 

-- Joe Flint

 

 

 

 

 

 

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