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FCC Outlines Its Net Neutrality Proposal

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jgThe chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, today outlined a framework aimed at ensuring that both wireline and wireless carriers don’t discriminate against traffic traversing their networks based on the type of traffic or the application. We speculated on Friday that he would outline formal net neutrality principles today to augment the informal ones adopted back in 2005. The agency also unveiled a web site dedicated to tracking this issue at

Back in 2005, the FCC created a set of four principles that governed net neutrality on wired networks, but such principles weren’t codified through a formal rulemaking process (which has led to a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s right to enforce net neutrality at all). Today Genachowski set forth a framework by which those principles will become a formal rule and added two new ones. He plans to suggest that all six principles apply to both wired and wireless networks.

The first of the new principles would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management. The second would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement. The other four are:

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

In addition to expanding the principles, Genachowski is calling for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the October commission meeting. The NPRM will ask for feedback on the proposed rules and how the FCC should apply them. This is where we’ll see contention over which network management practices are reasonable, what information broadband providers should disclose about their network management practices and how the rules apply to differing platforms, including mobile Internet access services. The carriers will do a lot of grandstanding here, but there are some real technical issues that the FCC and consumers will have to understand. We’ll outline some of those in a later story today, after the speech. Update: And here’s that analysis.

40 Responses to “FCC Outlines Its Net Neutrality Proposal”

  1. The devil will be in the details…

    How exactly ‘reasonable,’ ‘transparency,’ and ‘non-discrimination’ will be defined will be the balance between innovation (good for content providers and consumers) and the ability to manage networks (good for carriers).

    If the carriers do not have the ability to properly manage their networks and make a reasonable return on their investments, all those consumers and content providers who are banking (literally…) on an Internet that can support high-bandwidth applications like video, gaming, etc. are going to be sorely disappointed when the quality degrades.

    Hopefully, as the Chairman had said:

    “This is not about protecting the Internet against imaginary dangers.”

    But, instead, the upcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be data driven and focus on the realities of balancing the open nature of the Internet with the fact that carriers need to manage their networks in the same we that all other transportation systems (roads, airways, shipping lanes, etc.) are managed.

  2. I also have mixed feelings. I generally dislike government intervention in the private sector, but I also know the service providers and carriers have been quietly working on and implementing technologies to tax high bandwidth content, throttle traffic and create their own content to compete against those who would traverse their pipes. So I have very, very little pity for them.

    That being said, the cost will now be passed directly to the customers. There’s nothing in these rules about bandwidth caps (which I currently have). The end result will likely be bandwidth control and taxing at the user level…use more bandwidth and want more speed? Pay a much higher price, which likely will negate many of the benefits of net neutrality to the content creators (customers will be discouraged from using apps that consume high bandwidth from allowances).

    I think. :)

  3. i have mixed feelings on this. i think all the major operators should be required to offer ‘dumb pipe’ access at reasonable prices. on the other hand i would not want to ban an operator that for instances wants to offer free of charge service to a ‘walled garden’ of applications. for example i would not want to see that the amazon kindle service be required to allow a tethering application and therefore no longer be sustainable as a free service.

    a compromise that a suppose i could accept would be that any monthly fee service be required to be a ‘dumb pipe.’ but service could use other charging mechanism to sell ‘services delivered by IP’

  4. I have mixed feelings about this, I’m glad the government is pushing this, but can’t help but think ISPs will use this as ammo to cry wolf and rape consumers even more with higher prices…

    Pretty sad state for the US telecom industry to be this way in today’s world. Makes me want to pack up and move to Japan where the Internet is fast AND cheap.

  5. Libran Lover

    Sounds like a great set of principles. In your future posts, please do talk about what caveats there may be in how these rules are passed as a law and practiced in the real world.