Monday, September 21, 2009

FCC announces plan to protect access to an open Internet

During a speech at the Brookings Institution this morning, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined a proposal for explicit rules that would protect consumer access to an open Internet. The proposed rules would preserve "network neutrality," preventing broadband-based Internet providers from discriminating against certain services, applications, or viewpoints on the Web, and requiring providers to be transparent about their network management practices.

To some it may seem like an esoteric issue, but this boils down to protecting the Internet as an engine for innovation, economic growth, social discourse, and the free flow of ideas. Preserving non-discriminatory access also has the virtue of protecting consumer choice, ensuring that an Internet access provider cannot block fair access to any application provider on the Internet. We could not be more pleased to see Chairman Genachowski take up this mantle, and we look forward to working with the Commission as it finalizes its plans.

The Internet was built as an open platform, which means that the creators of new services and content do not need to seek permission from carriers or pay special fees to be seen online. This "innovation without permission" effect has allowed countless individuals and companies to offer new applications to the world, businesses large and small to open shop online, and anyone with an Internet connection to share their opinions freely in the marketplace of ideas. It's not until recently, in the wake of dogmatic deregulation, that this open environment has come under threat.

If consumers had a wide choice of broadband service providers, preserving an open Internet might not be such a critical issue. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans have few (if any) choices in selecting a provider. As a result, these providers are in a position to influence whether and how consumers and producers can use the on-ramps to the Internet -- and we've already seen several examples of discriminatory actions or threats that impair openness.

Allowing a handful of broadband carriers to determine what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the features that have made the Internet such a success, and could permanently compromise the Internet as a platform for the free exchange of information, commerce, and ideas. By outlining explicit open Internet requirements, the FCC is seeking to prevent this from happening.

There's no doubt that running an Internet service provider is a complicated business. As we've said in the past, we believe that providers should have the flexibility to manage traffic congestion and malware on their networks in non-discriminatory ways. They should not, however, be in the anti-competitive business of picking winners and losers. For example, carriers should not be allowed to degrade access to competitors' web sites, to favor access to a corporate partner or their own value-added services to the detriment of a Mom and Pop shop, or to discriminate against protected political speech.

The Internet was designed to maximize user choice and competition, and we've all benefited immensely as a result. Today the FCC took an important step in protecting that environment and ensuring that the Internet remains a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free expression.


Peter said...

Amen, brother (or sister). I could not agree more. Keep the Internet Free!

Matt said...

Dennis Kneale and Bill Griffeth of CNBC's "Power Lunch" just interviewed Markham Erickson from the Open Internet Coalition on this issue. The hosts offered some rather scathing comments, including the idea that "Google also runs one of the largest private fiber-optic networks in the world" and that it "sounds a little inconsistent" that the FCC isn't proposing open-access rules for private networks. That's a rather weak argument if you ask me, but it's an argument that has now been thrown out into public view on CNBC.

Erickson did a good job of defending the coalition's position, although I'm not sure how much leverage the net neutrality defenders get from what he proclaimed to be the "important" point that the government funded ARPANET 40 years ago.

Nice blog post on this topic.

Financial Tools said...

The FCC newly appointed chairman didn't explain some real key issues that were later asked at the meeting :

a) why some applications are denied by most Telecoms and cable Co's ? like Skype, Google Voice and others ?

b) why make wireless and wireline distinctions ? to divide all and get a better deal for the telcos and cable Co's? why divide the issue in 2 ? to divide the Internet and data in 2 categories is destructive, why do it ? something here smells like bad....

c) Genachowski talks about " Network Management " and "Premium Services", and we know that the devil is in the details, let's wait for the full text ...

d) no one addressed the issue of HTML 5 and open video standards, because like so many people are saying , there seems to be a push to "force-feed" all with Flash and a few other proprietary solutions,so what about these vital video issue ?

e) in the Monopoly section, why did the FCC , FTC and the other Federal Competition and Monopoly Offices , as well as the Obama-Biden Administration at the White House , didn't stand up to the biggest proprietary database ,Oracle, buying the biggest open-source database MySQL ? this is absurd in a free enterprise society , why no one in the FTC and FCC , etc., said anything ? why is only the EU objecting to this monopoly ?

In essence and in my opinion, I don't believe anything until we all see the final text of the Legislation,it takes just one little sentence or 2 comas to create a loophole big enough to drive a "Monopoly Cruiser" right trough it, so let's see the final Legislation text , until then it's just D.C. talk and Media show at the Brookings Institution, and this is very important work.

Thank you very much for the post.

Josefo Manu said...

Greed is the mother of most social conflicts... either we learn to let go, or our descendants will pay the consequences. Internet is really shifting some very established paradigms, because eventhough the majority of the web 2.0 comments are nonsense (product of so many years of pop tv, mcdonalds and coca shitola), many new ideas are getting impulse without the usual blockage of the older systems.
It's heartening to see this kind of posts, especially coming from one of the greatest minds of our times... Vint Cerf... Cheers to the Open web.

Ron said...

Great news! Let's keep the skies, roads, beaches and spectrums open to all!


Tech Guru said...

Vint, we all know that Google has spent millions of dollars lobbying for such regulations -- and large corporations do not do such things out of the goodness of their hearts. The truth is that Google is attempting to have the Internet regulated in ways that help its bottom line. And the public interest? Corporations do not receive capital from investors so that they can look after the public interest rather than investors' interest, and this is true in this case too. The fact is that this regulation would harm the public interest by raising the price of Internet access and reducing competition, limiting consumer choice. An "open" Internet? Open to Google, perhaps, but not open to innovation by ISPs or to future companies that might one day compete with Google.

thomas said...

It's pretty funny that Google is going on about Net Neutrality, when they show no such neutrality to users of the Linux OS. Despite the fact that Google could not exist without it, they do not see fit to develop a Linux port of their Chrome browser, and no Linux browser plugin for Google Earth (no idea why that would even be difficult to do, browser plugins should be cross platform by definition, no?).

Psy said...

the Internet must stay open and free!

Tech Guru said...

The argument for regulation in this article is founded upon an entirely false premise: that users have no choice of high speed Internet providers. This is simply false. Even in our very small town of 28,000 people, there are the telephone company, the cable company, three cellular providers, 4 WISPs, plus a dozen DSL providers who provide alternative service over the telephone company's lines.

The fact is that regulation is not needed. Why, then, is the FCC Chairman proposing it? Because powerful corporate lobbyists -- mostly funded by Google -- are spending big bucks in DC to push legislation and regulation that favors their corporate masters.

If this regulation goes through, watch for higher prices, poorer quality of service, and fewer choices (because the regulation will destroy many alternative providers, leaving a duopoly or monopoly in many places where one previously had a choice).

rnbresearch said...

Interesting text. You have a nice blog. Keep it up!

George said...

There are far more reasons to manage a network than just blocking malware. There is a very legitimate reason to priorize some applications over others when we are protecting low bandwidth applications from high bandwidth applications.

The FCC's 5th principle must distinguish between reasonable discrimination and unreasonable discrimination.

Unfortunately, Ed Markey's 3rd attempt to regulate the Internet prohibits any sort of network prioritization which neuters the Internet. There is no question that the Internet and especially the access portion (broadband) of the Internet needs smart network prioritization.

Since you've publicly praised congressman Ed Markey in the past for being someone who "understood Net Neutrality", then you seem to be endorsing Ed Markey's position which mandates that the Internet must not permit prioritization. Can you please clarify this and explain your position on Markey's bill?

SolracSelbor said...

I have an interesting question, and I am hoping someone can please answer this:
Will net-neutrality laws allow individuals who file-share copyrighted material, more leeway in doing so?
As most of you know, Comcast, Charter, AT&T, etc are internet providers who have been known to cut, or threaten to cut, a users internet service if the file-sharing continues. However, the reason such actions occur are do to third party interventions such as the BSA, who send letters to ISP's urging them to take action on such individuals or face charges of facilitating illegal activity.
Under the Digital Millennium Act it is implied that internet providers are not liable for actions taken by those using their services. For this reason, it seems odd to me that these letters are sent out.
Will these new net-neutrality principles facilitate illegal file sharing? Or, in other words, will these principle allow those users of the internet the freedom of transferring data of their choosing?

Rob Frieden said...

Hello All:

I wish I had all the high speed Internet access options apparently available to Tech Guru. Most people have two primary options: DSL and cable modem service. What passes as 3G cellular does not reach a 786 bits per second threshold, nor typically do satellite options. We may get to a point where wireless and maybe even broadband over powerline offers competition, but not now.

Jake said...

The ISPs own their equipment and should be free to service customers to mutual benefit.

Google is advocating the FCC revoke some of this ISP-customer freedom. As an ISP customer, I oppose Net Neutrality on economic grounds (my ISP will lose some ability to innovate and to act on its own judgment), and on political grounds, as I uphold the principle of property rights.

I urge casual fans of Net Neutrality to consider its full implications, if you have not done so already.

I agree with TechGuru's comment which succinctly said: "Google is attempting to have the Internet regulated in ways that help its bottom line."

Beneath the veneer of a debate on "openness", Net Neutrality is a matter of RIGHTS; specifically, an attempt to infringe on ISPs' (and therefore YOUR) right to use your property as you see fit.

Brian said...

Man, I do not understand why someone wouldn't want the Internet to be totally free, how about we say all "traffic is created equal"! Can someone please explain the other side to me? Oh, yes, please take away my freedom - where can I sign up?? Time Warner - owns AOL right, so let me guess AOL search is super fast on their networks, Google, Bing not so much. Dough!! People, get a clue!!! Damn, sometimes I feel like I am taking crazy pills.

mollylauster said...

Molly Lauster said
They are trying to shut down the internet access to the people who can't afford to buy medicene in USA at the drug company cost. I can buy Plavix from Canada for $79 a hundred and pay $400 plus for 90 in USA. Just one of many. The drugs come from Germany or different foreign country. I have been told American drug companies own the foreign business in Germany etc. at a lower cost for labor and sell the drugs lower to foreign country but bring back to us and expect same out ragious price. If this is true it is a lousy way for American drug companies to do business with the American people and if your congress & senator's are for the internet shut down then we must find someone to fill their position who is for the people and not the drug company's increased wealth. Thank you for listening & let your congressmen and senators know your feelings.