Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released what it calls the “framework” of its plan to “preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet,” a plan that could be on the docket at the commission’s monthly open meeting scheduled for Dec. 21.

“This framework, if adopted later this month, would advance a set of core goals: It would ensure that the Internet remains a powerful platform for innovation and job creation; it would empower consumers and entrepreneurs; it would protect free expression; it would increase certainty in the marketplace; and spur investment both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Saying the proposed rules were based in part on Republican input and are “consistent with President Obama’s commitment to ‘keep the Internet as it should be – open and free,’” the chairman added, “the proposed open Internet framework is designed to guard against these risks, while recognizing the legitimate needs and interests of broadband providers.”

Here is the short list of what the proposed new rules could cover: ? 

  • fostering a cycle of massive investment in both the edge and the core of broadband networks, to the benefit of consumers and our economy.
  • ?protecting Internet freedom will drive the Internet job creation engine.
  • ?providing more knowledge to consumers and innovators about broadband service, like how networks are being managed.
  • ?helping to ensure consumers and innovators can send and receive lawful Internet traffic – to go where they want and say what they want online, and to use the devices of their choice. Thus, the proposed framework would prohibit the blocking of lawful content, apps, services and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network.?
  • giving consumers and innovators a level playing field. As such, the proposed framework includes a bar on unreasonable discrimination in transmitting lawful network traffic.

“To this end, broadband providers need meaningful flexibility to manage their networks – for example, to deal with traffic that’s harmful to the network or unwanted by users, and to address the effects of congestion,” the chairman continued. “Reasonable network management is an important part of the proposal, recognizing that what is reasonable will take account of the network technology and architecture involved.

“Under the framework, the FCC would closely monitor the development of the mobile broadband market and be prepared to step in to further address anti-competitive or anti-consumer conduct as appropriate. Informed by the staff’s additional legal analysis and the extensive comments on this issue over the past year, the proposal is grounded in a variety of provisions of the communications laws, but would not reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service.  I am satisfied that we have a sound legal basis for this approach.”

Finally, Genachowski assured Congress that it would have a place at the table regarding broadband regulation: “I want to emphasize that moving this item to a vote at the Commission is not designed or intended to preclude action by Congress. As always, I welcome the opportunity for the Commission to serve as a resource to Congress.”

The Reaction

Comments on the FCC proposal circulated quickly, including one from Ev Ehrlich, national economist and president of ESC Company, and a former Under-Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton: “Today’s announcement is a tremendous setback for realizing the Internet’s full potential. Net neutrality – if it were ever implemented – would stifle innovation and productivity on the broadband Internet by making it impossible to offer varying quality of signal to different applications.”

He continued, “And for the broadband companies that invest tens of billions of dollars every year in new fiber and wireless networks, today’s suggestion of new Internet regulations will almost certainly hamper economic expansion and job  creation. It truly makes one wonder what the FCC is thinking. For the sake of economic progress and the expansion of the Internet, Congress should quickly establish a bipartisan alternative to this dramatic overstep from the FCC.”

In a longer statement, NCTA President & CEO Kyle McSlarrow commented, “NCTA has consistently taken the view that broadband services should be regulated with a light touch under Title I of the Communications Act and not as common carrier services under Title II. Similarly, we have stressed that net-neutrality regulation is unnecessary in light of the competitive marketplace, the absence of conduct that was harmful to consumers or competition, and the very real risk that regulation would undermine one of the great success stories in America.”

“First, and perhaps most important, the order circulated today is grounded within the framework of Title I. We further understand that the rules proposed basically codify a code of conduct and commitments made by our industry five years ago; add a discrimination principle based on a ‘reasonableness’ standard; and add a transparency rule that we believe can be helpful in aiding customer choice,” McSlarrow added. “We further understand that the rules do not preclude or inhibit our ability to innovate and deploy new and specialized services. Importantly, they appear to reflect Chairman Genachowski’s previously stated position that such rules will not and should not result in price regulation and to recognize the value of flexible business models, such as usage-based pricing.”??However, he did warn these words could be modified “should the order change in any material way from our understanding.”

“We reserve our rights to vigorously challenge any such rule,” McSlarrow concluded. “Accordingly, NCTA will await the final resolution of the order at the next FCC meeting before making a final determination of our views or on any actions we might take subsequent to that meeting.” ?

-Debra Baker

The Daily


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