FCC: We Want Net Neutrality

from the yes,-but... dept

As was rumored last week, FCC boss, Julius Genachowski, gave a speech where he pushes to have the FCC's "principles of network openness" codified into law. Basically, he's come out in support of a net neutrality law, giving the FCC the power to regulate the issue. In the speech, he suggests that the four principles that were already put forth by former FCC chair Michael Powell get two additions, and have all six codified as law. The first four are:
  • Freedom to Access Content. First, consumers should have access to their choice of legal content
  • Freedom to Use Applications. Second, consumers should be able to run applications of their choice.
  • Freedom to Attach Personal Devices. Third, consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes.
  • Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information. Fourth, consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans.
To that, Genachowski adds the following two:
  • The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination -- stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications.
  • The sixth principle is a transparency principle -- stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.
I have to admit that the sixth principle sounds a lot like the fourth, and the whole thing remains pretty vague. The more interesting bit is the plan to include wireless technologies in what's covered here, something the FCC hasn't paid nearly as much attention to in the past.

While I believe that the basic concept of a neutral internet is very important to keeping the internet as a platform for innovation, I have to admit that I'm quite nervous about any attempt to put it into the law. First, many are noting that the telcos will undoubtedly heavily lobby the process to make sure that the final legislation has plenty of loopholes and quid pro quo aspects in it. As Broadband Reports notes:
While anyone and everyone will participate, you can expect lobbyists for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to continue to get the best seats. Be mindful that lobbyists will likely work very hard to make these principles as weak as possible so they can only be used in the most egregious instances of foul play. This is a perfect opportunity for telecom lobbyists to pre-empt tougher federal laws, that not coincidentally picked up steam in Congress last week.

Also be aware that when lobbyists see discussions of "transparency," their immediate thought is that it's a perfect opportunity to push harder for low usage caps and high per-byte overages. Mega-carriers believe that as long as they're facing expectations of honesty when it comes to network management, they might as well use the opportunity to their advantage in almost vindictive fashion. Expect the industry's continued dream of shifting from flat-rate pricing to metered billing to play a starring role as the rules get hashed out.
Not surprisingly, the broadband providers rushed out prepared statements that all start off with "applause" for Genachowski, followed by something rather different than applause... each positioning reasons for why putting such principles into law is a bad, bad idea. In other words, expect a big fight and any law to be greatly watered down.

My biggest fear, honestly, isn't in what happens with this particular law, but what happens down the road. I believe that Genachowski really is committed to reasonable internet principles. But once we've given the FCC a mandate to regulate how the internet works, then those laws can and will be updated and changed. What if the next FCC chair is a former telco exec -- certainly not outside the realm of possibility. Opening up that door is likely to result in some very bad legislation down the road.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Adam (profile), Sep 21st, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Net Neutrality

    This is an important issue and it's good to see that the new Chairman has moved to put Net Neutrality on the front burner of communications policy. His vision of an open Internet that preserves the "freedom to innovate without permission" is one that our organization, the Center for Democracy & Technology, shares; it's an idea believe all Internet users and innovators should vigorously support. The move to expand the basic Internet principles the agency laid out in 2005 by to include nondiscrimination and transparency addressed two areas where we thought the original principles fell short.

    Ideally, the launch of FCC proceedings would prompt Congress to take up the matter too. CDT has long said that FCC activity on Internet neutrality would benefit from clear congressional guidance, authorization, and limits, so that the FCC's task and regulatory authority are not open-ended. You can read more about our thoughts on this by looking at our more inclusive comments we submitted to the FCC on its overall Broadband Plan. http://www.cdt.org/speech/20090608_broadband_comments.pdf

     

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  2.  
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    Ryan, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    Re: Net Neutrality

    His vision of an open Internet that preserves the "freedom to innovate without permission"

    The fastest way to eradicating the freedom to innovate without permission is precisely what he appears to be promoting; assigning a bureaucratic body to monitor the internet and give permission for its permitted activities. He's already made a point of noting that file-sharing will be closely monitored and restricted as desired. And just look at television -- if the intended purpose of the FCC's regulation of broadcast was to be consistently hijacked as a punitive arm of the Parents Television Council, then they've done a smash-bang job.

    Why would the FCC not be waiting for innovative private enterprises to come up with solutions--such as wireless--not subject to incumbent telecom corps' monopolies? Or better yet, eliminate government granting of the monopolies.

     

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  3.  
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    JJ, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 2:41pm

    I want my traffic discriminated!

    To really bring the Internet to its full potential, we're gonna need more special treatment (read: discrimination) of traffic, not less. I don't want my web browsing slowed down -- and worse, my VoIP calls broken up -- by my (and my neighbor's, and everyone else's) hi-def movie downloads.

    I WANT my ISP to recognize different types of traffic and optimize them to their particular ideal usage patterns... prioritizing real-time stuff when bandwidth is tight, then opening the floodgates for big downloads when bandwidth is cheap. It seems like this law could make such basic quality of service control illegal.

     

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  4.  
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    wind, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 2:52pm

    Not their job

    if the internet is going to be overseen by the government, than you can start declaring it a bad place to look at porn or download anything you dont want the government to know about. soon your searches will become evidence against you. This is as close to wiretapping as it is a way for your employer to spy. The FCC should be focusing on the safety of the radiowaves and how they interact with the public. Enforcing low radiation from the tv towers, not specifying what the internet should be used for.

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 21st, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    Yay!

    "As was rumored last week, FCC boss, Julius Genachowski, gave a speech where he pushes to have the FCC's "principles of network openness" codified into law"

    Oh, well that's wonderful. Does anyone remember the axiom that power begets power? This is simply an opening of the door of government intervention on the internet. I wonder how they'll go about corrupting it...

    "I believe that Genachowski really is committed to reasonable internet principles."

    Right. Those Harvard grads have done us so well in the past, haven't they? Any info available on whether Genachowski was a Bonesman? Probably not, being as how he is Jewish, but how about one of the lesser rival secret societies on Harvard grounds?

    I also notice that his bedfellows in that Broadband Initiative thing he's spearheading are Bonesman, Trilateralists, and CFR term members at least.

    Oh yeah, this ought to go well....

     

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  6.  
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    hegemon13, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 3:08pm

    Re: I want my traffic discriminated!

    If that's what you want, then pay for a business-class connection and buy a router that supports QOS. The whole point behind QOS is that you shape YOUR traffic to better serve YOUR priorities. Not everyone's priorities are the same, and it is neither your job nor the telco's to foist a one-size-fits-all QOS policy on everyone.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Yay!

    Oh, well that's wonderful. Does anyone remember the axiom that power begets power?

    So, are you suggesting it would be better to leave that power in the hands of private companies blessed with gov't provided monopolies such as AT&T? Do you feel the same way about telephone service? How about if AT&T bought an interest in Pizza Hut and then began redirecting calls to other pizza shops to Pizza Hut instead? (A similar situation led to the invention of the automatic telephone switch.) Or how about if the local power company bought an interest in Pizza Hut and then began cutting power to the other pizza shops? Fortunately, big bad "regulations" don't allow that.

    I'll tell you, until those monopolies are eliminated and there is complete and open competition in the market, I'd rather see the power in the hands of gov't regulators than the likes of AT&T and Comcast. While they will certainly work to take over the regulators, at least there will be a chance of some moderating influence on their behaviors.

    I also notice that his bedfellows in that Broadband Initiative thing he's spearheading are Bonesman, Trilateralists, and CFR term members at least.

    And you think such people aren't in positions of power within the corporations that would otherwise be unfettered to discriminate as they please? Think again.

     

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  8.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Sep 21st, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    I prefer government regulation over the idea of private enterprise because I have seen government regulations change, I have never seen a business change unless it was legally forced to.

     

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  9.  
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    Ryan, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 4:33pm

    Re:

    Umm...what country do you live in?

    Businesses are forced to cater to the public for business unless they are just so incredibly favored by the government that the latter de facto forces everyone to use their service.

    Government makes the rules under threat of jail and/or confiscation of property and does so with little to no transparency.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    Businesses never change? Businesses created the internet as we know it.

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 21st, 2009 @ 7:10pm

    Re: Re: Yay!

    "So, are you suggesting it would be better to leave that power in the hands of private companies blessed with gov't provided monopolies such as AT&T?"

    Frankly, yes. Not because they're any better, but at least if they don't get what they want codified into law, then the average citizen can take advantage of some rival to the elite. Once they start making it law, it tightens the noose on the options for rebellion.

    "I'll tell you, until those monopolies are eliminated and there is complete and open competition in the market, I'd rather see the power in the hands of gov't regulators than the likes of AT&T and Comcast."

    Oh, I agree in principle. Unfortunately, the next question you have to ask yourself is how many of our politicians are, have been, or will be employed or in ownership of the corporations they legislate on? Also, you must ask the same question of the politician's relationship with large international banks that sit on the boards or loan money to those companies. Those numbers might surprise you.

    "And you think such people aren't in positions of power within the corporations that would otherwise be unfettered to discriminate as they please? Think again."

    I do not. I just don't want to give their agents in government the power to legislate. The current experience of the Healthcare debate ought to serve as an example of how pointless our "representatives" are....

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2009 @ 9:52pm

    "What if the next FCC chair is a former telco exec -- certainly not outside the realm of possibility."

    This is exactly why I'm sick and tired of unelected officials making laws. We need ONLY elected (NOT appointed) officials making laws and they should run up for election about every two years. However, if they're good they should be allowed re - election many times. If not, we elect someone else.

     

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  13.  
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    Allen (profile), Sep 21st, 2009 @ 11:01pm

    I've said this elsewhere: I think that their efforts would be better spent on competition. ISPs can only abuse near monopoly powers if they have a near monopoly.

    With sufficient competition in place consumers (not regulators) can dictate what type of service is acceptable.

    Of course competition is a much larger problem than network neutrality. Ultimately though without improved competition this is little more than a PR exercise..

     

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  14.  
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    Zaphod (profile), Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 12:55am

    Wait a minute...

    "Freedom to Access Content. First, consumers should have access to their choice of legal content."

    Ummmm, who decides what is legal? Does anyone really know what is legal from day to day, when political correctness is running amok through D.C.?

    Let us just drop legal from that sentence...

    "Freedom to Access Content. First, consumers should have access to their choice of content."

    And now the big data pushers can't kill the bill with the 1st Amendment.

     

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  15.  
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    Frosty840, Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 2:05am

    Cynicism

    My cynicism has reached the point where I see announcements like this as nothing more than an invitation to lobbyists to open the bidding to not do any of the cool stuff in the announcement...

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 5:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Yay!

    Frankly, yes. Not because they're any better, but at least if they don't get what they want codified into law, then the average citizen can take advantage of some rival to the elite.

    There's the flaw in your thinking. In actuality, in most US markets there are few rivals the average citizen can take advantage of. Apparently you've been drinking the telco/cableco koolaid about there being plenty of competition in the US broadband market. It's a myth: there isn't.

    As I said, if the broadband were open, free and fair then I wouldn't see any need for regulation either. But it isn't, and so I do.

    I do not. I just don't want to give their agents in government the power to legislate.

    Let's see, it seems to me that you already think they're in the gov't, but then you don't want them to have the power to legislate. That seems pretty extreme to me. I'd say that a gov't without the power to legislate isn't much of a gov't at all. Can you give any examples of such gov'ts? Anarchy much?

     

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  17.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 6:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Yay!

    "There's the flaw in your thinking. In actuality, in most US markets there are few rivals the average citizen can take advantage of. Apparently you've been drinking the telco/cableco koolaid about there being plenty of competition in the US broadband market. It's a myth: there isn't."

    No, I AGREE with you. But I see legislation in this area as a step in the wrong direction. As I said, it's not that things are great now, with rampant competition and a true free marketplace, but allowing industry backed legislators to codify into law what they wish is a step in the wrong direction. I can assure you that I'm not an industry Kool Aid drinker. Not by a long shot.

    "Let's see, it seems to me that you already think they're in the gov't, but then you don't want them to have the power to legislate. That seems pretty extreme to me. I'd say that a gov't without the power to legislate isn't much of a gov't at all. Can you give any examples of such gov'ts? Anarchy much?"

    My comments were with regard to this specific legislation/law, not government in general, though overall the less power the federal government has the better, IMO.

     

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  18.  
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    known coward, Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 7:16am

    this subject continually amazes me

    There is NO NET NEUTRALIY NOW. I do not understand how technical savvy people simply do not understand this. EACH AND EVERY TIER 1 ISP now provides MPLS traffic classification and SLA's guaranteeing latency and jitter times to their best corporate customers, across their backbones. This means their packets go first, yours last. Aside from the fact that you can not have Guaranteed real time 2 way video or VoIP with NET Neutrality. Some applications require going first or they simply do not work.

     

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  19.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 7:25am

    Principle Seven ....

    The seventh principle should be an open an competitive marketplace for internet access.

    The rules in part should should read....

    All Internet Service Providers to provide a full listing of street addresses and service types for all current internet connections on a monthly basis to the FCC for public review.

     

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  20.  
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    hegemon13, Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Infrastructure

    The easiest path to fair competition, in my view, is to extend net neutrality to all publicly-subsidized infrastructure. Telecoms have had regulated local monopolies for long enough for profits to FAR surpass any investment they have made in the infrastructure. It's time for the public to get something back for their own investment: an open infrastructure not owned, controlled, or locked up by any corporation. Let any company provide service on the infrastructure without having to pay the exorbitant, monopoly-extending fees to the "owner" of the infrastructure.

    Competition would become fierce, and net neutrality toward content would take care of itself. Every consumer wants net neutrality, even if they don't know it by name. Even the guy above who said he wanted his provider to discriminate really doesn't. He wants them to discriminate HIS way. But as soon as they shaped traffic in a way he didn't agree with, he'd be screaming. In the end, consumers want to be free to access the content they want at the advertised speed of their connection without censorship, filtering, or other interference. If there was true competition, companies would have no choice but to offer customers what they want.

     

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  21.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Also ....

    "Freedom to Access Content. First, consumers should have access to their choice of legal content"

    the words "Legal Content" should be removed.... It opens up a can of worms and allows big Media to lobby to outlaw (insert your favorite big media hated item here)

     

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  22.  
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    luke james, Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    netks

    As I've been reading various comments, I agree with some of them where they state they have some mixed feelings about this idea being both good and maybe not so good. As long as it does not interrupt too much of the ISPs. Of course, we may not know that until the basic "trial and error" take place.

     

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  23.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    gets better

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2009 @ 3:16pm

    Re: this subject continually amazes me

    There is NO NET NEUTRALIY NOW. I do not understand how technical savvy people simply do not understand this. EACH AND EVERY TIER 1 ISP now provides MPLS traffic classification and SLA's guaranteeing latency and jitter times to their best corporate customers, across their backbones. This means their packets go first, yours last.

    You're "amazed" because you apparently don't understand what's being discussed. What you describe isn't it.

     

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  25.  
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    speck, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

    Re: I want my traffic discriminated!

    I don't want my high-def movies broken up by people gabbing on the phone about John and Kate Plus America's Next Survivor.

     

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  26.  
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    Fred McTaker (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:34am

    Re:

    "Businesses created the internet as we know it."

    This would be funny if it wasn't so completely false. If that were true, we would still be stuck deciding between Prodigy, AOL, or Compuserve, probably on the basis of their modem speed and per-message charges. The Internet as we know it started out as a GOVERNMENT project, in coordination with PUBLICLY FUNDED Universities, called ARPANET. Just look at the 3G wireless data market, where they try to dictate what kind of computer (these days cell phones are computers) you can connect to "their network." If we left it to businesses, there would be NO Internet -- just a series of loosely connected (if connected at all) CORPnets. If we were really lucky, Google would exist as a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL.

     

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  27.  
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    Fred McTaker (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 2:07am

    Re: Net Neutrality

    They forgot one rule:

    * All Internet consumers must have a choice among substantial competition, including connection providers, maintenance providers, and ISP markets.

    The Internet is another service which may need a "Public Option", to provide real competition to the existing market Trusts and Monopolies. Breaking up Ma Bell never worked -- it reformed while they weren't looking, like a T-1000.

    Competition and regulation are both basic requirements in basic needs markets that tend to form Natural Monopolies or Trusts, such as food, housing, health, transportation, and communications. Government should create competition when the market fails to. People need to realize that paying for monopoly rents and trust price-fixing is worse than paying for taxes, because you can't vote on corporate internal policy or management, only on external regulation. Imagine how much better services could be if you could directly vote on your landlord or ISP management. You can't even "vote with your dollars" (which is inherently not Democratic -- it's Oligarchic) when there's no competition.

    I never voted for AT&T to dictate local DSL access limits -- they forced that on us through market manipulation and lobby money. I can only vote for politicians that will promise to strong-arm them into serving me better, or who will threaten them with real competition. Those politicians are far too rare.

    I don't trust invisible hands.

     

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