With ‘Net Neutrality,' Chair Says FCC Must Be a ‘Smart Cop’

WASHINGTON — The fight for “Net Neutrality” took a big step forward Monday with the chair of the Federal Communications Commission proposing new rules for both mobile-web-access providers and broadband providers — rules that would bar mobile-web-access and broadband providers from managing traffic.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution, said the FCC must be "a smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet."

He also said it’s vital that the Internet continue to be an engine of innovation, economic growth, competition and democratic engagement.

“I understand the Internet is a dynamic network and that technology continues to grow and evolve,” he said. “I recognize that if we were to create unduly detailed rules that attempted to address every possible assault on openness, such rules would become outdated quickly.

“But the fact that the Internet is evolving rapidly does not mean we can, or should, abandon the underlying values fostered by an open network, or the important goal of setting rules of the road to protect the free and open Internet.”

Genachowski said that doing nothing on the issue would impose its own form of unacceptable cost.

“It would deprive innovators and investors of confidence that the free and open Internet we depend upon today will still be here tomorrow,” he said. “It would deny the benefits of predictable rules of the road to all players in the Internet ecosystem.”

Genachowski proposed that the FCC adopt new principles that would prevent discrimination and require full transparency from ISPs that seek to manage their networks. Its new principles are additions to the “Four Freedoms” endorsed by the FCC in 2005.

The updated principles are:

  • Freedom to Access Content: Consumers should have access to their choice of legal content.

  • Freedom to Use Applications: Consumers should be able to run applications of their choice.

  • Freedom to Attach Personal Devices: Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes.

  • Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information: Consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans."

  • Non-discrimination: Broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications.

  • Transparency: Providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.

Genachowski asked the FCC to adopt all six principles as Internet rules.

FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn have already indicated they support stronger Net Neutrality rules.