FCC chair proposes new ‘net neutrality’ regulations

FCC chair proposes new ‘net neutrality’ regulations

[JURIST] Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] Chairman Julius Genachowski [official profile] on Monday proposed [press release, PDF] "net neutrality" [JURIST news archive] regulations that would prevent Internet providers from restricting access to particular services. At a speech [text; recorded video] at the Brookings Institution [think tank website], Genachowski unveiled OpenInternet.gov [official website], stressing the importance of "open Internet" principles. The FCC currently follows four open Internet principles: that consumers must be able to access the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network. Genachowski introduced two new principles: preventing Internet providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications while allowing for reasonable network management, and ensuring that Internet providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement. Genachowski also said that the FCC would take steps to formally codify the principles as regulations, saying:

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.

This is not about government regulation of the Internet. It's about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the Internet. We will do as much as we need to do, and no more, to ensure that the Internet remains an unfettered platform for competition, creativity, and entrepreneurial activity.

Republican lawmakers have already introduced legislation [WSJ report] to prevent the FCC from moving forward with the new regulations, and wireless providers such as AT&T have also objected [Washington Post report].

The issue of net neutrality arises from concerns that broadband providers should not be free to accept money from content providers in exchange for preferential bandwidth treatment or to interfere with the content of competitors. Last year, the FCC said that it was ready to act [JURIST report] to ensure a proper balance is struck between consumer proponents of net neutrality principles and the telecommunication industry's interest in controlling the flow and content of Internet traffic over its networks. In 2006, the House Judiciary Committee approved [JURIST report] a net neutrality bill [HR 5417 materials] that would have applied federal antitrust law to alleged breaches of net neutrality, but the legislation was never approved by the full House.