Ben Scott Responds to Speech by FCC Chair
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Uploaded on Sep 21, 2009
FCC Chief 'Boldly' Commits to Net Neutrality
By Tim Karr, September 21, 2009
The Federal Communications Commission just took a big step forward for Net Neutrality with the announcement Monday of FCC Chair Julius Genachowskis plans to expand the rules to protect a free and open Internet.
In a speech at the Brookings Institution, Genachowski said the FCC must be a "smart cop on the beat preserving Net Neutrality against increased efforts by providers to block services and applications over both wired and wireless connections.
Genachowskis speech comes as a breath of fresh air in a Washington policy environment that has long stagnated under the influence of a powerful phone and cable lobby.
If we wait too long to preserve a free and open Internet, it will be too late, Genachowski said citing a number of recent examples where network providers have acted as gatekeepers:
We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications (phone calls delivered over data networks) and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen at least one service provider deny users access to political content.
The agency has earlier noted concerns about the blocking of applications and services on new handheld Internet devices such as the iPhone. There are compelling reasons to be concerned about the future of openness across all platforms, Genachowski added.
Genachowski, who was an architect of President Obamas technology agenda, proposed that the agency adopt new principles that would prevent discrimination and require full transparency from ISPs that seek to manage their networks. The new principles are additions to the endorsed by the FCC in 2005.
Genachowski asked the FCC to adopt all six principles as Internet rules that are essential to ensuring its continued openness. FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn have already indicated they support stronger Net Neutrality rules.
The rise of serious challenges to the free and open Internet puts us at a crossroads, Genachowski said. We could see the Internets doors shut to entrepreneurs, the spirit of innovation stifled, a full and free flow of information compromised. Or we could take steps to preserve Internet openness, helping ensure a future of opportunity, innovation, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas.
In a panel of experts following the speech, David Young of Verizon Communications stated that his company is able to live with Internet openness standards. Openness and innovation are keys to our success, Young said, but added predictably that he prefers a hands off approach.
Young later added a familiar lobbyist refrain that he doesnt understand what the problem is that we are trying to solve. Verizon has already deployed 194 lobbyists at a cost of more than $13 million this year to fight Net Neutrality rules both at the FCC and in Congress.
The Internet has a long history of regulation, said Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott in response to Young. What were deciding is not whether to have Internet regulation or not. What were deciding is how to proceed with regulating the Internet right.
What we heard today is a very common-sense approach, Scott said. But in this town, doing something common sense is considered bold.
[This is] about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the Internet, Genachowski concluded. We will do as much as we need to do, and no more, to ensure that the Internet remains an unfettered platform for competition, creativity, and entrepreneurial activity.
Now the FCC has to actually write the new rules and invite comments from the public and interested parties.
To engage more public participation in the process, Genachowski announced that the agency would hold a series of public workshops on openness. In addition, the FCC launched a new Web site, www.openinternet.gov, so the public can contribute to the process.
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