Genachowski Speech Draws Praise, Scorn from Industry and Congress

FCC, National Broadband Plan, Net Neutrality September 22nd, 2009

, Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2009 – Network neutrality principles outlined by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Monday found industry groups and Congress drawing strong lines in reaction to his proposal.

Open Internet Coalition president Markham Erickson called Genachowski’s speech “a landmark move” that would “put the FCC on course to protect the internet economy.” Coalition members support the FCC policy changes because “openness rules will bring new competition into the tech industry,” he said.

Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn was similarly pleased with Genachowski’s proposal. He “struck exactly the right balance” with his plan to use the existing “four principles,” Sohn said. And Genachowski’s plans to add openness and transparency principles will “ensure the genius of the internet will continue into the future.”

However, Progress and Freedom Foundation president Ken Ferree said he was “troubled to learn the FCC is embarking on an exercise that would probably result in rules that are unconstitutional and almost certainly beyond the FCC’s statutory jurisdiction.”

Genachowski’s Republican colleagues were similarly displeased by his announcement. In a joint statement, Commissioners Meredith Atwell Baker and Robert McDowell said the “dramatic proposal” would only serve to “grow government’s involvement in Internet governance and management.”

Baker and McDowell also said Genachowski had acknowledged the commission overstepped its bounds when it sanctioned Comcast for blocking peer-to-peer applications last year.

That jurisdiction was also challenged in the Senate as Commerce Committee Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., announced legislation Monday that would explicitly prohibit the FCC from regulating the internet.

“In this struggling economy, any industry that is able to thrive should be allowed to do so without meddlesome government interference that could stifle innovation,” Ensign said in a statement.

But Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., lauded Genachowski’s plans. “An open Internet has been key to expanding economic, education, and healthcare opportunities to consumers and businesses,” he said.

“I applaud Chairman Genachowski’s proposal as a good first step toward protecting consumers’ rights and the integrity of a free and open Internet for all Americans.”

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