Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is making the
opening volley of his nationwide broadband plan a doozey. The chairman intends
to codify network neutrality, by which Internet service providers are
prohibited from constraining bandwidth or blocking certain content. He intends
to start with the commission’s existing “Four Freedoms,” a set of voluntary
principles developed by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell in 2004. The issue was so contentious during the 2006 telecom reform debate on Capital Hill that it brought the pending legislation to a screeching halt.
“These principles can be summarized as: Network operators cannot prevent users
from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their
choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the
network,” Genachowski said in prepared remarks today at the Brookings
Two additional parameters would prevent Internet access providers from content
discrimination while allowing for “reasonable” network management, and require operational
transparency from ISPs.
Genachowski will start the process of codifying network neutrality in Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the
commission’s regular October meeting.
“This is not about government regulation of the Internet,” he said. “It’s about
fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the Internet.”
Public interest groups in Washington have long rallied for network neutrality,
while ISPs--cable and telcos--have fought it vigorously. The carriers say they
ought to be able to charge accordingly for data hogs. They successfully had
network neutrality rules stripped out of the telecom reform bill passed three
years ago, mostly via Republican support.
Democrats in Congress generally have been on board for network neutrality. Rep.
Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released a laurel for Genachowski’s plan last Friday,
before the chairmen even announced it.
“I hope the commission follows Chairman Genachowski’s lead and adopts
meaningful rules to ensure unfettered access to content and services on the
Internet. This move is an important complement to the bill that Chairman
Waxman, Congressman Eshoo and I are pushing to codify these vital protections
for consumers and innovation,” Markey said.
Genachowski’s charter from the president is to create a nationwide broadband
plan of which network neutrality would be but one element. The use of spectrum,
and by whom, will also be a part of the overall framework.
image by Hershel; UCLA
Document image by Dean Terry.
More on the developing broadband plan
September 17, 2009
: “Legislators Press for
It’s rare to get agreement across party lines on Capitol Hill, but that was
the case this morning when it came to radio frequency spectrum. Legislators and
regulators alike agreed that an inventory was in order. The issue arose during
a House subcommittee hearing on oversight of the FCC.