The Congressional Research Service is a $100 million a year think tank that researches and writes informative and non-partisan reports on topics suggested by members of Congress. The catch–and the reason you might not have read their work–is that CRS reports are only made easily available to members of Congress. Citizens can request these reports from lawmakers, but without a public index, they can’t request something they don’t know exists. The CRS Reports currently rank first on CDT’s Most Wanted Government Documents. In an ongoing effort liberate these documents, CDT runs Open CRS, an online repository of public CRS Reports. To spotlight these reports, I will be writing “CRS Report of the Week” posts and feature a relevant report each week. T
hese reports are informative in both that they serve as excellent primers to political issues and that they offer a degree of insight into what information is circulating around Congress. Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate R40616 June 1, 2009 July 21st has passed, which means just one thing: Reply Comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Broadband Plan are in! Anyone interested in digging in and reading the Reply Comments can do so by searching the FCC’s website using the parameters Proceeding 09-51 and Document Type RC. This CRS Report on the Net Neutrality Debate might come in handy before you dive in. It was written very recently, which makes it even more useful.
The Report offers a summary of the regulatory history of broadband Internet access services from its classification as a Title I information service, which meant that it faced a less stringent regulatory environment, to the FCC Internet Policy Statement, the Comcast Order, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that started the FCC Notice of Inquiry process. In addition, the Report tries an evenhanded explanation of what network management actually entails, including prioritization and deep packet inspection. There is also a short section on the debate around net neutrality that rather accurately sums up many of the arguments being made at least in the first round of comments. However, if you choose to go through the Reply Comments, be on the lookout for the application of net neutrality to wireless. It is not covered in the Report, but is definitely a debate that we’ll be seeing more of in the future.