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08/20/2010 08:31 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Former FCC Chairman Criticizes 'Religious' Commitment To Net Neutrality (VIDEO)

While the FCC and the White House have both remained relatively mum on Google and Verizon's proposal, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell discussed net neutrality and the two companies' "open Internet" policy framework on Fox Business yesterday.

Powell, appointed to the FCC by President Clinton and made chairman of the FCC by President George W. Bush, weighed in on the controversial Google and Verizon framework that critics argue could create a tiered Internet and be "the end of the Internet as we know it."

He said that the FCC had invited the two companies to draw up this framework.

"This Google Verizon agreement, which is really less of an agreement and more of a proposal to the government of how to resolve this controversy has really been invited by the government itself," Powell argued. "The FCC and members of congress are telling both sides, 'Look, go out and find a consensus, go out and find common ground.' Here are two companies that have been diametrically opposed on this issue for years coming together to try to provide a constructive answer and I think that's at the government's invitation."

In his view, "the government's own proposed [net neutrality] rules look a lot like the Google Verizon proposal."

He also criticized the almost religious fervor of net neutrality advocates. While he agreed "there are certain core elements of the open Internet you want to preserve," he said the issue of net neutrality "became highly politicized and almost religion during the campaign."

"The Silicon Valley netroot community, a very powerful community, a very important constituency to this administration, is strongly, almost religiously committed to this issue in a very coordinated way and that provides a lot of power and impetus to keep this issue moving and to push the more extreme versions of net neutrality," Powell said.

He later joked the Internet was "nirvana."

He also addressed concerns over the government's involvement in regulating the Internet.
"There are reasons to be concerned about making sure that the fundamentals of the Internet--that is its open ended nature--continue to be being preserved," he stated. But, he warned, "be careful what you wish for with respect to the government in fast moving industries...I've never been confident in the government's ability to both predict and to move quickly enough to maintain relevancy and accuracy in the regulation of markets like this."

The current FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has issued a short statement on the Verizon-Google proposal, writing, "Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. That's one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward--a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations." The White House had remained surprisingly quiet--a White House spokeswoman merely said the President "supports an open Internet that drives innovation, investment, free speech and consumer choice" and "[supports] the FCC's process." (Read more reactions here)

Do you agree with Powell's stance? Why or why not? Weigh in below. Read more about net neutrality and the Google Verizon proposal here.

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