No Blocking Allowed: FCC Lays Out Net Neutrality Proposal


Credit: AP / Harry Hamburg

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski gave an overview this morning of his proposal to preserve “a free and open internet,” as the FCC prepares for a vote on net neutrality principles later this month. At the heart of his proposal are two broad ideas: 1) ISPs can’t block content or favor one service over another, but 2) variable pricing based on consumer use is OK. There are, of course, real questions about whether Genachowski’s vision will pass muster in Congress. Here are more details on his proposal:

»  Freedom of choice for users. The crux of the proposal is a no-blocking rule. Under the FCC’s proposed rules, internet providers won’t be allowed to block “lawful content, apps, services, [or] the connection of non-harmful devices to the network.” While online, consumers should be able to go where they want, say what they want, and use the devices of their choice. That will assure a level playing field for consumers and innovators. “No central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick which ideas or companies win or lose on the Internet; that’s the role of the market and the marketplace of ideas,” Genachowski said.

»  Transparency. Consumers have a right to know basic information about their broadband service, including how those networks are being managed.

»  Management flexibility. Broadband providers need “meaningful flexibility” in managing their networks. That means the ability to deal with traffic that’s harmful or users don’t want, and the ability to deal with congestion. It also means that ISPs should be allowed to engage in “usage-based pricing,” or metering. My colleague Andy Wallenstein has analysis of attitudes toward online video metering among ISPs and consumers.

Moving the net neutrality proposal to a vote isn’t intended to preclude action by Congress, Genachowski added. But the FCC intends “to be a cop on the beat to protect broadband consumers and foster innovation.”

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