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FCC Open Internet Preservation Initiative

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined the concrete actions he believes the Commission must take to preserve the free and open Internet at a speech today at The Brookings Institution.

“The Internet is an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, investment, and opportunity. It has unleashed the potential of entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small businesses across America,” said Chairman Genachowski. “It is vital that we safeguard the free and open Internet.”

The Commission previously embraced four open Internet principles affirming that consumers must be able to access the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network. These four principles guide the FCC’s existing case- by-case enforcement of communications law.

  1. Freedom to Access Content.
    Consumers should have access to their choice of legal content.
  2. Freedom to Use Applications.
    Consumers should be able to run applications of their choice.
  3. Freedom to Attach Personal Devices.
    Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes.
  4. Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information.
    Consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans.

In today’s speech, Chairman Genachowski proposed the addition of two new principles:

  • The first would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management.
  • The second principle would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.

The Chairman also proposed clarifying that all six principles apply to all platforms that access the Internet.

Chairman Genachowski will seek to begin the process of codifying the Commission’s existing four open Internet principles, along with the two additional principles, through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) at the October meeting. The NPRM will ask for input and feedback on the proposed rules and their application, such as how to determine whether network management practices are reasonable, what information broadband providers should disclose about their network management practices and how the rules apply to differing platforms, including mobile Internet access services.

As part of Chairman Genachowski’s commitment to openness and transparency, the FCC launched a new website, www.openInternet.gov to encourage public participation.

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps issued the following statement:

“The Internet was born and thrived on openness. Keeping it open as some players amass the power for gatekeeper control is essential. The FCC’s Statement of Four Internet Principles that we won in 2005 was the initial down-payment toward that objective. Chairman Genachowski’s bold announcement today is a significant further investment in safeguarding Internet Freedom. I salute him for it.

Broadband users should be able to use any device or application they want, to reach any legal content they wish, using any broadband technology, so long as they don’t cause harm to the network. Some rules of the road and a venue for enforcing them are required to make this vision reality. This is why I have long advocated an enforceable principle of non-discrimination, ensuring that product and service providers understand the difference between advancing and short-circuiting Internet Freedom. And the venue with the expertise to adjudicate claims of alleged discrimination, and with the authority to enforce the principle, is the FCC.

The Chairman’s statement also rightly accords high priority to transparency for consumers. Users have a right to know how the network is being managed and what practices providers are employing. A sixth principle of transparency is therefore not just good–but essential–policy.

Certainly a well-considered Internet Freedom approach will take into account what constitutes reasonable network management practices; how evolutionary and revolutionary changes can alter the landscape and even change the guidelines on what is or is not acceptable; and solicit the input of all stakeholders–consumers, innovators, technologists and entrepreneurs. Internet Freedom is part-and-parcel of bringing the wonders of Twenty-first century telecommunications to each and every American. Today’s announcement is a significant stride toward realization of this vision.”

Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn issued the following statement today in support of Chairman Julius Genachowski’s speech on network neutrality at the Brookings Institution earlier in the day:

“I fully support Chairman Genachowski’s intention to take affirmative measures to preserve the openness of the Internet. The Chairman’s statement today is an important first step in setting forth clear rules of the road that will ensure the Internet’s continued vibrancy. As a former small business owner, I am keenly aware of how an open and transparent Internet can serve as an equalizing force for new entrants to the marketplace. I look forward to working with the Chairman and my fellow Commissioners to move expeditiously on this issue of great importance to the country.”

CTIA, the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry, representing carriers, manufacturers and wireless Internet providers issued the following statement from CTIA, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Chris Guttman:

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“While we are waiting to read the contents of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), we welcome the Chairman’s interest in wireless and his commitment to pose a series of detailed questions on how the Internet openness principles should apply to mobile broadband.

“As we have said before, we are concerned about the unintended consequences Internet regulation would have on consumers considering that competition within the industry has spurred innovation, investment, and growth for the U.S. economy.

“As a justification for the adoption of rules, the Chairman suggested that one reason for concern ‘has to do with limited competition among service providers.’ This is at the core of our concerns. Unlike the other platforms that would be subject to the rules, the wireless industry is extremely competitive, extremely innovative, and extremely personal. How do the rules apply to the single-purpose Amazon Kindle? How does it apply to Google’s efforts to cache content to provide a better consumer experience? How about the efforts from Apple and Android, Blackberry and Nokia, Firefly and others to differentiate the products and services they develop for consumers? Should all product and service offerings be the same?

“Regarding spectrum investment, the Commission need only look at the results of the 700 MHz auction to understand the impact on investment. The C Block rules, which included an open requirement, had only two bidders, and sold for significantly less. The other licenses, which sold for significantly more, were sold with the promise that the spectrum would not be subject to the open rules. Now the Commission is considering changing the rules after the auction — impacting companies’ confidence in the auction process — just as carriers are facing a brewing spectrum crisis.”

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) a trade association promoting growth in the U.S. consumer electronics industry issued a statement from CEA, Senior Vice President Michael Petricone:

“CEA applauds Chairman Genachowski’s commitment to ensuring that Internet users have access to the lawful content, services, applications and devices of their choice. We look forward to working with the Commission to develop common sense rules that preserve openness without undermining incentives to invest in broadband infrastructure.”

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