FCC Chief 'Boldly' Commits to Net Neutrality

The fight for Net Neutrality just took a big step forward on Monday
with the chair of the Federal Communications Commission announcing
plans to expand the rules to protect a free and open Internet.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution,
Julius 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

Genachowski's 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.

A Call for Wired and Wireless Neutrality

The agency had earlier noted concerns about the blocking of applications and services on new handheld Internet devices such as the iPhone.

Ben Scott of Free Press responds to Genachowski's speech

Genachowski, who was an architect
of President Obama's 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 "Four Freedoms" endorsed by the FCC in 2005.

Genachowski asked the FCC to adopt the new principles as Internet
rules, calling them "essential to ensuring its continued openness."

FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn have already indicated they support stronger Net Neutrality action.

"The rise of serious challenges to the free and open Internet puts
us at a crossroads," Genachowski said. "We could see the Internet's
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."

The Right Rules, Right Now

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

Young later added a familiar lobbyist refrain that he "doesn't
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 we're 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

The FCC Opens Its Doors

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

In addition, the FCC launched a new Web site, www.openinternet.gov, so the public can "contribute to the process."

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