FCC Proposal Enlivens Debate Over Net Neutrality

By Andrew Gauthier 


FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski enlivened the ongoing net neutrality debate in a speech to the Brookings Institution on Monday by proposing two additional principles to the existing four. The existing principles, which protect consumer rights to lawful internet access, applications, devices, and competition among service providers, have been in effect since 2005.

The new principles deal with traffic and transparency:

5. Broadband providers cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, favor certain content or applications over others and cannot “disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider.”

6.Broadband providers must be transparent about the service they are providing and how they are running their networks.

President Obama supports the proposed principles, and said in a speech Monday, “We have to think about the networks we need today, but also the networks we need tomorrow.”

In order to encourage public discussion on the future of the internet, the FCC also launched a website, OpenInternet.gov on Monday.

Senate Republicans initially balked at the announcement, and responded with a proposed amendment that would restrict funding for the new principles. They had retreated by Tuesday, after Genochowski called those opposed, and are now “beginning a dialogue,” according to a staff member.

Comcast’s executive VP of broadband, David L. Cohen, thinks that given the internet’s tremendous growth in recent years, it is “fair to ask whether increased regulation of the Internet is a solution in search of a problem.”

AT&T wasn’t thrilled by the announcement either, and unlike Verizon and Sprint, who wouldn’t comment, AT&T has stated that, while it approves of applying net neutrality to wired networks, wireless networks should be exempt. In order to maintain efficient and consistent internet service, AT&T contends, providers need to reserve the right to restrict bandwidth for its wireless customers.