FCC takes a stand on net neutrality

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
FCC Chair Julius Genachowski [delivered a speech yesterday] that takes a strong stand for a free and open Internet (the U.S. regulator has also launched OpenInternet.gov as a site to debate the issue). A transcript of the prepared remarks indicates that the FCC Chair wants to formally establish six principles as Commission rules related to net neutrality. The FCC is focusing on non-discrimination and tranparency as well as making it clear that the rules should apply across platforms — broadband, mobile, and satellite. Key quotes:
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.
Non-discrimination — stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.
Transparency principle — stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.
We cannot afford to rely on happenstance for consumers, businesses, and policymakers to learn about changes to the basic functioning of the Internet. Greater transparency will give consumers the confidence of knowing that they’re getting the service they’ve paid for, enable innovators to make their offerings work effectively over the Internet, and allow policymakers to ensure that broadband providers are preserving the Internet as a level playing field. It will also help facilitate discussion among all the participants in the Internet ecosystem, which can reduce the need for government involvement in network management disagreements.
In considering the openness of the Internet, it is also important to recognize that our choice of technologies and devices for accessing the Internet continues to expand at a dizzying pace. New mobile and satellite broadband networks are getting faster every day, and extraordinary devices like smartphones and wireless data cards are making it easier to stay connected while on the go. And I note the beginnings of a trend towards openness among several participants in the mobile marketplace.
Even though each form of Internet access has unique technical characteristics, they are all are different roads to the same place. It is essential that the Internet itself remain open, however users reach it. The principles I’ve been speaking about apply to the Internet however accessed, and I will ask my fellow Commissioners to join me in confirming this.
This is not about government regulation of the Internet. It’s about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the Internet. We will do as much as we need to do, and no more, to ensure that the Internet remains an unfettered platform for competition, creativity, and entrepreneurial activity.

The FCC proposal is consistent with the proposals put forward before the CRTC this past summer at the network management hearing. The big question for Canadians is whether the CRTC will follow the U.S. model or leave the issue to the government to address.

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