FCC chairman announces support of Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who delivered his first major policy speech at the Brookings Institution this past week, announced both the principles and concrete actions he believes the commission must take to preserve the concept of a free and open Internet. Significantly, Genachowski also posted his views on the FCC’s new broadband blog, part of the FCC’s move to embrace new media to create greater transparency of its actions.

“Today, we can’t imagine what our lives would be like without the Internet — any more than we can imagine life without running water or the light bulb,” said Genachowski in his speech.

In his blog post, Genachowski said that the Internet has been “an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, economic growth and opportunity,” noting the success of entrepreneurs and small businesses it has fostered. The chairman embraces the Web’s “historical openness” across products and services, content and application as a key to this success. He decried providers who block or degrade certain applications and/or content for any reason, whether technical or political.

In his Brookings speech, Genachowski affirmed the open Internet principles the FCC already embraces (user access to lawful content, applications and services of their choice and the ability to attach non-harmful devices to the network). In addition, he proposed two new principles be added. The first would prevent providers from discrimination against particular content or applications, while the second would require transparency from Internet access providers regarding their network management practices. This is somewhat controversial, because the ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T oppose the idea of network management rules and are quick to point out that bandwidth-intensive apps like video put a notable strain on infrastructure and.

Genachowski acknowledged this conflict in his blog post: “While these goals are clear, the best path to achieving them is not, and involves many hard questions about how best to maximize the innovation and investment necessary for a robust and thriving Internet.”

The chairman’s point of view embraces economic stimulus and technological innovation as much or more than freedom of speech.

“With the help of all stakeholders, the FCC can help secure a bright future for the Internet and make sure that the garage, the basement and the dorm room remain places where inventors can not only dream, but bring their ideas to life. And no one should be neutral about that,” he said in the blog post. The FCC has launched a new Web site, openInternet.gov, to encourage public participation in the issue of net neutrality.