WASHINGTON, September 21, 2009 - The Federal Communications Commission must be a "smart cop on the beat" to preserve a free and open internet, Chairman Julius Genachowski said Monday during a speech at the Brookings Institution.
While acknowledging the 30th birthday of ARPANet - the predecessor to today's internet, Genachowski announced his intent to launch a proceeding which would extend and formalize the "Four Principles" of the commission's 2005 Internet Policy Statement through a formal rule making - as well as introduce two new principles: non-discrimination and transparency in network management.
Genachowski's plans to formally codify "network neutrality" into federal regulations come as the commission's 2008 ruling against Comcast for blocking peer-to-peer traffic remains under the cloud of a court challenge. Comcast has alleged the FCC's 2005 policy statement does not have the force of law - nor does the commission have the authority to regulate broadband providers in the first place.
Legislation is already pending in the House of Representatives that would give the FCC this explicit authority.
But Genachowski has no plans to wait for legislative action, he said, and plans to introduce a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the commission's October open meeting.
Action is needed because as Americans have shifted to broadband services from dial-up internet access, the number of provider choices has "narrowed substantially," he said. But no one should infer any conclusions from that statement, Genachowski added cautiously. "It is simply a fact about today’s marketplace that we must acknowledge and incorporate into our policymaking.
And the convergence of entertainment providers with broadband service providers means that those companies often compete with services that are delivered over their own networks - creating a situation in which "broadband providers' rational bottom-line interests may diverge from the broad interests of consumers in competition and choice," he said.
The explosive growth of internet traffic is yet a third reason for clear regulatory principles, Genachowski added. He noted that internet traffic has roughly doubled every two years, and with them have come a plethora of sophisticated network management tools that are often opaque to the end-user. These tools "cannot by themselves determine the right answers to difficult policy questions - and they raise their own set of new questions," he said.
These questions are difficult, Genachowski acknowledged. But "we have an obligation to ask and to answer correctly for our country," he said. Ignoring the issues and leaving them to the whims of the market would "deprive innovators and investors of confidence" that the internet will remain open, he said.
And retreating from the internet's core principle of openness would be dangerous to the medium that has become "stunningly successful as a platform for innovation, opportunity, and prosperity," he said. "Saying nothing - and doing nothing - would impose its own form of unacceptable cost."
Genachowski outlined two specific additions to the 2005 policy statement which he intends to circulate next month. The "fifth principle" would state that broadband providers may not discriminate against particular Internet applications by degrading or blocking lawful traffic.
This would not prevent enforcement of any existing laws -- nor hamper network providers from managing their networks, Genachowski stressed. "This principle will not constrain efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and spam-free Internet experience, or to enforce the law. It is vital that illegal conduct be curtailed on the Internet," he said. "The enforcement of copyright and other laws and the obligations of network openness can and must co-exist."
And the "sixth principle" would mandate broadband providers be transparent about their network management practices. Because the internet evolved from open standards, it should be managed with tools and practices that are disclosed so their effects can be known, he said. Such openness will "help facilitate discussion among all the participants in the Internet ecosystem, which can reduce the need for government involvement in network management disagreements," he said.
Mobile broadband will be held to the same standards as traditional broadband, Genachowski said. "Even though each form of Internet access has unique technical characteristics, they are all are different roads to the same place. It is essential that the Internet itself remain open, however users reach it," he urged.
Genachowski will circulate these six principles in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to his colleagues to be introduced at next month's open meeting. The proposed rules are being drafted by commission staff.
But the proposal is "not about government regulation of the internet," Genachowski stressed emphatically. "It's about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the internet." And the commission's approach will be limited and only exercised on a case-by-case basis, he said. "We will do as much as we need to do, and no more."
BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.
A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.
Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.
- In Interview With New York Times Editorial Board, Joe Biden Urges Revoking Section 230
- Senate Commerce Hearing Tackles Barriers to the Short-Staffed 5G Deployment Initiatives
- Todd Foje: Can High-Speed Broadband Finally Bridge the Gap Between Rural and Urban Communities?
- Broadband Roundup: Digital Inclusion Often Falls Short, Rumble Over Roomba Spectrum, Deal Over Education SuperHighway
- Gordon Smith: Can a 5G Fund Connect Rural America at 21st Century Speeds?
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Open Access4 weeks ago
UTOPIA Fiber: A Model Open-Access Network
China2 months ago
Prakash Sangam: China’s Huawei Clones Are Greater Threat to National Security than Huawei
Broadband Mapping & Data3 months ago
Broadband Data From Providers Needs to be Checked With Data From Users, Say Panelists at Mapping Event
Open Access3 months ago
UTOPIA Fiber Announces Partnerships with Morgan, Utah, Idaho Falls, and Other Cities
Education3 months ago
State Educational Technology Officials Say Better Broadband Necessary for Pedagogy and Equity
FCC1 month ago
Telephony Industry Rises to the Challenge of Robocalls, With Legislation, Regulation and Enforcement Close Behind
FCC2 months ago
As Next Year’s C-Band Auction Looms, FCC Officials Reflect on Innovation in Spectrum Auctions
House of Representatives3 months ago
C-Band Hearing Showcases Divisions Over Auctions, Uses of Radio Frequencies