Net Neutrality Regulations Coming

In FCC Chairman Genachowski’s long-anticipated statement on net neutrality rulemaking today, the Chairman made the claim that the Internet architecture is both unbiased and future-proof. However, as ITIF notes in a forthcoming report, “Designed for Change: End-to-End Arguments, Internet Innovation, and the Net Neutrality Debate”, the Internet’s architecture doesn’t make it future-proof, the process of experimentation and continual improvement does; rule making can seriously jeopardize Internet flexibility unless it’s undertaken with great care. In addition, it’s important to note that the Internet has always preferred some applications over others; it favors content over communication, for example. Network management is necessary as a means to overcome the Internet’s structural bias, so strict rules limiting network management to the mitigation of spam, malware, and attacks are not good enough. Carriers must be empowered to enable communications applications to compete equitably with content applications; only the carriers can provide fair access to diverse applications and users.

The approach to Internet regulation that focuses exclusively on the rights of consumers and the responsibilities of carriers belies the fact that the Internet invests substantial network control at the intelligent edge; the Internet gives each of us the power to be a producer as well as a consumer, and with that power comes responsibility. We can innovate without permission, but we all have to behave responsibly. It goes without saying that open access networks are desirable, so the real test of the FCC’s rulemaking will come from its assessment of both user behavior and operator management practices. We have every confidence that the Commission will undertake a serious, rigorous and fact-based rule making. The Internet enables innovation to the extent that carriers provide robust and reliable transport services to applications; if this capability is preserved and enhanced by a sensible network management framework, innovation will win.

6 thoughts on “Net Neutrality Regulations Coming”

  1. What troubles me is that while the Chairman claimed that he wanted the process to be “fact-based” and “data-driven,” his speech contained many assumptions and assertions that are not supported by the facts.

    One can only hope that, during a “fact-based” process, the Chairman will learn that some of the statements in his his speech (which was likely written for him by ideologically minded staffers) were simply not correct. For example, he claimed that there was no competition among Internet service providers. How, then, can it be true that there are ten (count them) high speed, non-dialup commercial Internet providers in my small, rural town of 28,000 people?

  2. If the neuts have their way, my IP telephone will be useless when the little twerp next door is illegally downloading movies with peer-to-peer software.

    Content over communication, indeed.

    And, no, fatter pipes are not the panacea the neuts want to believe. Japan and Korea demonstrate that fiber to the home (100 mbps!) just moves the bottlenecks further upstream toward the core of the network.

    I want hard science, not religious mush, to rule my internet.

  3. Was it just me, or can the entire speech be summarized as a bad mix of techcrunch reporting and something like “Unicorns! Faeries! Magic! Woo!”

    I guess we’ll have to wait to see if this is another underwhelming Obama Admin Kool aid speech followed by vague inaction which will be followed by “deer in the headlights” policy making… Personally I’m hoping for a revamp of the regulatory structure since it looks like data networks will be the carrier of both “Information services” and “Telecommunications services”, but that seems to make too much sense.

    Perhaps the easiest way to get around the issue would to give the neuts around $250 Million to actually go build a network to see if they can do better than what exists… It would certainly be entertaining:

    “Neutrizon: A Buggy (but Neutral!) Network Powered by it’s own sense of self satisfaction”

    How much would you bet that their best (and only) customers would be spammers? 😉


  4. The thing that is of the greatest concern about the new regulations proposed by Chairman Genachowski is that they are based upon a shaky and flawed foundation. The FCC’s original “four principles” were not based on the results of any data gathering or fact-finding process (they didn’t need to be, because they were presented as not being enforceable). They are also now also several years old, and the landscape has changed greatly since that time. They further failed to take into account many contingencies. Shouldn’t the new FCC gather data and start afresh, rather than assuming that this old, poorly researched language should be enacted, verbatim, as rules?

    When the Chairman was confirmed, and again at last month’s Congressional oversight hearing, he pledged that the FCC would be “data-driven” and would only regulate when the data showed that markets did not work. In this spirit, perhaps the Commission should issue an NOI (Notice of Inquiry) rather than an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) at its October 22nd meeting. An NOI would likely be approved by a unanimous vote (as opposed to an NPRM, which is likely to be contentious) and would allow new data to be gathered and new facts to be considered before any rules were drafted (if, in fact, any were needed at all). It would also conform to the wishes of Congress, from which the FCC derives its authority. And it would allow time for the data from broadband mapping projects to arrive, giving a much better picture of the competitive landscape. There’s still half a month before the October 22nd meeting; I hope that the Chairman will consider making this change to ensure that any rules that do get enacted are fair and based on actual fact-finding rather than the unverified assertions of corporate lobbyists.

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