FCC Set to Adopt Open Internet Rules

In a speech on Monday at the Brookings Institution, new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed that the FCC adopt a stronger position and be more actively involved in regulating an open Internet.

To date, the Federal Communications Commission has addressed these issues by announcing four Internet principles that guide our case-by-case enforcement of the communications laws. These principles can be summarized as: Network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.… Today, I propose that the FCC adopt the existing principles as Commission rules, along with two additional principles that reflect the evolution of the Internet and that are essential to ensuring its continued openness.…

The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination -- stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.

The sixth principle is a transparency principle -- stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.

The FCC launched OpenInternet.gov to share information.

Reactions and Reporting:
William McGeveran, Info/Law, FCC to Propose Net Neutrality Rules "This will be a major fight, probably the most significant battle we have seen within the federal government over the structure of the internet."

Marguerite Reardon, CNet, Verizon, AT&T: Net neutrality not OK for wireless "Verizon and AT&T, which operate the nation's largest and second-largest cell phone networks, respectively, say the rules should not apply to wireless Internet access."

Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen asks Does the Internet Need More Regulation? "The Internet in America has been a phenomenal success that has spawned technological and business innovation unmatched anywhere in the world. So it’s still fair to ask whether increased regulation of the Internet is a solution in search of a problem."

Nate Anderson, Ars Technica, ISPs react, sort of support network neutrality—with caveats: "In one important sense, the 'openness' advocates have already won the first round of the debate: the way the issue is framed. As you can see from the statements below, no companies will come out against the idea of being 'open,' at least when it comes to wired networks."

Ryan Singel, Wired, FCC Backs Net Neutrality — And Then Some: "FCC chairman Julius Genachowski delivered Monday on President Obama’s promise to back ‘net neutrality.’ But he went much further than merely seeking to expand rules that prohibit ISPs from filtering or blocking net traffic — he proposed that they cover all broadband connections, including data connections for smartphones."

Saul Hansell, The New York Times, F.C.C. Chairman Seeks to Protect Free Flow of Internet Data: "Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Genachowski will propose that the net neutrality principles be formally adopted as commission rules, a lengthy procedure that involves several rounds of public comment. His predecessor, Kevin Martin, avoided making formal rules, arguing that the industry changes too quickly. He preferred to respond to complaints when they were filed."

David Weinberger, NPR, Net Neutrality And Beyond: "But [regulation is] only necessary because the way we deliver Internet in this country waves at least three major Temptations to Discriminate in the faces of the access providers. 1. A provider may want to gain advantage over a competitor's services — like Apple not allowing Google's phone service on the iPhone. 2. It may honestly believe that its users want it to give the delivery of (for example) video priority over the delivery of e-mails or search results. 3. Or, it may view discrimination as triage necessary to handle high volumes of traffic."

And finally, a new blog focusing on these rulemaking proceedings from law professors Jim Speta (Northwestern), Tim Wu (Columbia) Christopher Yoo (Penn) is at Net Neutrality Rules.

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