FCC Net Neutrality Proposals Throw Debate into Overdrive

Lora Bentley

Monday, Federal Communications Commission chief Julius Genachowski announced a plan to formalize the net neutrality principles under which the agency has been operating for the last four years into rules the FCC will be able to enforce. The plan would also add a fifth principle and apply the rules to wireless providers, which have been exempt to this point.


In their current form, the principles are simple. The FCC news release announcing them provides:

  1. Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
  2. Consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
  3. Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.
  4. Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.


Under Genachowski's plan, fifth and sixth principles will be added, and all six will be adopted as formal rules.


The fifth principle is one of nondiscrimination. Broadband providers will not be able to discriminate against content or applications. The sixth principle requires broadband providers to be open and transparent about how they manage their networks Genachowski said:


"We have an obligation to ensure that the Internet is an enduring engine for U.S. economic growth, and a foundation for democracy in the 21st Century. We have an obligation to ensure that the Internet remains a vast landscape of innovation and opportunity."


According to USA Today, the fifth principle means that broadband providers, whether cable or wireless, would be unable to block content based on the amount of bandwidth it would require. Potomac Research analyst Paul Glencher told USA Today the proposed rule is likely to be "very controversial."


A day out from the announcement, industry stakeholders and pundits alike are already proving his point. The debate is evident even at IT Business Edge, where Carl Weinschenk calls the proposal good news, noting that President Obama supports the effort to protect the Internet's openness, but Mike Vizard wonders if it's even constitutional.


This one will be fun to watch.

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