In a speech at the Brookings Institution on September 21st, Chairman Genachowski outlined his proposal for expanding and codifying the Commission’s existing net neutrality principles adopted in 2005. These four original principles provide that consumers: (1) may access the lawful Internet content of their choice; (2) may run applications and use services of their choice; (3) may connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and (4) are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
Chairman Genachowski stated his intention to add two additional principles—nondiscrimination and transparency—and to codify all of these principles into formal rules that would apply to all platforms for accessing the Internet (including cable modem, DSL, and wireless). His proposed nondiscrimination principle would prohibit Internet access providers from discriminating against content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management. His proposed transparency principle would ensure that Internet access providers clearly explain to customers what network management practices they employ.
Public response to the proposal followed quickly. The Chairman’s proposal received strong support from his fellow Democrats on the Commission (Commissioners Copps and Clyburn) and a statement expressing concern from his Republican colleagues (Commissioners McDowell and Baker). Several members of the House of Representatives (many of whom had previously supported net neutrality legislation) praised the Chairman’s proposal. Some Republican Senators initially planned to introduce an amendment to pending legislation to prohibit the FCC from spending funds on developing such net neutrality rules, but dropped this plan after Chairman Genachowski approached them to open a dialogue on net neutrality. AT&T has already filed a letter with the FCC urging that any new net neutrality rules apply to Web companies such as Google in order to ensure a “level playing field,” so the debate promises to be a lively one.
Chairman Genachowski intends to circulate a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to his fellow commissioners soon, and observers expect that he will schedule a vote to adopt the NPRM at the Commission’s open meeting in October. The public will then have the opportunity to comment on the issues raised in the NPRM, including how to determine if network management practices are reasonable, what information Internet access providers should be required to disclose to their customers, and how the rules should apply to different platforms. Any rules likely would not be adopted until sometime in 2010.