Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FCC Chairman Moves Forward with Internet Regulation Proposal

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is moving forward with a new set of Internet traffic rules that will be brought to a commission vote on December 21. The proposal would resolve that statutory uncertainty that currently exists regarding Net Neutrality by granting the FCC new powers to enforce Internet traffic management rules. Genachowski said the framework would establish "basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as
a platform for innovation, investment, competition, and free expression." Three of the FCC commissioners are Democrats and two are Republicans, implying that the proposal should pass if the vote splits along partisan lines.

In a statement, Genachowski said his proposed Internet rules would embody several core principles:

1. Transparency -- consumers have a right to know basic information about the broadband service they are purchasing. Innovators also have right to information they need to make smart choices about subscribing to or using a broadband network, or how to develop the next killer app. Service Providers have an obligation to provide such information.

2. Consumers and innovators have a right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic -- to go where they want and say what they want online, and to use the devices of their choice. The proposed framework would prohibit the blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network.

3. Consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field. No central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick which ideas or companies win or lose on the Internet; that's the role of the market and the marketplace of ideas. The proposed framework includes a bar on unreasonable discrimination in transmitting lawful network traffic. The proposed framework also recognizes that broadband providers must have the ability and investment incentives to build out and run their networks.

Genachowski's proposal acknowledges that broadband providers need meaningful flexibility to manage their networks -- for example, to deal with traffic that's harmful to the network or unwanted by users, and to address
the effects of congestion. The proposal will allow for "reasonable network management.

Regarding mobile broadband, the proposal sets forth requirements for transparency and a basic no blocking rule. Under the framework, the FCC would closely monitor the development of the mobile broadband market and be prepared to step in to further address anti-competitive or anti-consumer conduct as appropriate.

  • FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell issued a statement blasting Genachowski's proposal: "Such rules would upend three decades of bipartisan and international consensus that the Internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation. Pushing a small group of hand-picked industry players toward a “choice�? between a bad option (Title I Internet regulation) or a worse option (regulating the Internet like a monopoly
    phone company under Title II) smacks more of coercion than consensus or compromise. This “agreement�? has been extracted in defiance of not only the courts, but a large, bipartisan majority of Congress as well. Both have admonished the FCC not to reach beyond its statutory powers to regulate Internet access. By choosing this highly interventionist course, the Commission is ignoring the will of the elected representatives of the American people."

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