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“The Open Internet: Preserving the Freedom to Innovate”

September 21st, 2009 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Julius GenachowskiThe Internet is the most transformational communications breakthrough of our time. It has become essential to the fabric of the daily lives of Americans.

More and more, the Internet is how we get news, information, and entertainment; how we stay in touch with our friends and family; how we work and start new businesses; how we -- and people across the globe -- learn about our communities and express points of view.

The Internet has also been an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, economic growth, and opportunity. It has unleashed the potential of entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small businesses across America.

The key to the Internet's success has been its openness.

The Internet was designed to be "future-proof" -- to support ideas, products, and services that today's inventors have not yet imagined. In practice, it doesn't favor or disfavor any particular content or application, but allows end users, content creators, and businesses of every size and in every sector of the economy to communicate and innovate without permission.

Notwithstanding its unparalleled record of success, today the free and open Internet faces emerging and substantial challenges.

We've already seen some clear examples of deviations from the Internet's historic openness. We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen one service provider deny users access to political content.

And as many members of the Internet community and key Congressional leaders have noted, there are compelling reasons for concern about even greater challenges to openness in the future, including reduced choice in the Internet service provider marketplace and an increase in the amount of Internet traffic, which has fueled a corresponding need to manage networks sensibly.

The rise of serious challenges to the traditional operation of the Internet puts us at a crossroads. We could see technology used to shut doors to entrepreneurs instead of opening them. The spirit of innovation stifled. A full and free flow of information compromised.

Or we could take steps to preserve a free and open Internet, helping to ensure a future of opportunity, prosperity, and the vibrant flow of information and ideas.

I believe we must choose to safeguard the openness that has made the Internet a stunning success. That is why today, I delivered a speech announcing that the FCC will be the smart cop on the beat when it comes to preserving a free and open Internet.

In particular, I proposed that the FCC adopt two new rules to help achieve this.

The first says broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. The second says broadband providers must be transparent about their network management practices. These principles would apply to the Internet however it is accessed, though how they apply may differ depending on the access platform or technology used. Of course, network operators will be permitted to implement reasonable network management practices to address issues such as spam, address copyright infringement, and otherwise ensure a safe and secure network for all users.

I also proposed that the FCC formally enshrine the four pre-existing agency policies that say network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.

This is just the first step in what will be an ongoing process. While these goals are clear, the best path to achieving them is not, and involves many hard questions about how best to maximize the innovation and investment necessary for a robust and thriving Internet. That is why we have created www.OpenInternet.gov.

This site is a place to join the discussion about the free and open Internet. OpenInternet.gov is in Beta, and we'll be adding features to enable participation in the near future. I encourage you to check it out to offer your input, or simply to read or watch today's speech.

With the help of all stakeholders, the FCC can help secure a bright future for the Internet, and make sure that the garage, the basement, and the dorm room remain places where inventors can not only dream, but bring their ideas to life.

And no one should be neutral about that.

(Cross-posted on Huffington Post)

22 Responses to ““The Open Internet: Preserving the Freedom to Innovate””

  1. Guest says:

    It is a "nice" ivory tower statement to permit open access for everyone on the Internet. It is troubling that the largest companies that stand to benefit have thrown large sums of money to lobby for "net neutrality", yet these same companies don't spend a dime in maintaining, expanding and updating the network infrastructure. Thus, these companies (Google for example) benefit but the Internet infrastructure companies spend $billions on the Internet infrastructure.

  2. Guest says:

    What's up with the "(Cross-posted on Huffington Post)"? A preferred blogging partner? Seems a bit preferential, does this .gov site support all Huffington Post opinions? May be worth spreading the wealth.....

  3. Ali Osman says:

    "The key to the Internet's success has been its openness."... So true, please keep up the fight and do not let Operators and Network owners dicatate the debate.

    The site www.OpenInternet.gov. is a start, let us start discussion and truely give future generations a legacy they can build upon.

  4. Regina Hopper NextGenWeb.org says:

    We look forward to working with the Chairman, the Commissioners and all interested parties in factually discussing broadband, the internet, deployment and adoption. I hope you will take a moment to read my blog "The Open Internet" at http://shar.es/1rYcx.

  5. GC Austin says:

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I hope you can restore true openness despite opposing agendae and influences. It will be far from easy but vital for a healthy, growing broadband network in America.

    Common Carriage? Genuine Competition?... may we Dare to Dream?

    thanks again, a cautiously hopeful consumer

  6. Guest says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that the internet must be free and open and not subject to the whims and profit grubbing that the largest providers insist is their right. OpenInternet.gov is a good start. But we have to finish.

  7. Jim Williams says:

    It seems to this observer that the strategic key is to establish policies that encourage the provision of plain old bandwidth service (POBs) as a sustainable business. Decouple that service from everything else. A provider could also sell voice, tv or hamburgers, but POBs in and of itself is a self supporting product line.

  8. John Savageau says:

    Carriers and networks have known for years that video and high bandwidth applications were going to be part of all our lives. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg's announcement last week that the future is in broadband delivery of video and entertainment (rather than POTS) shows the US carriers finally get it.

    The reality is that Internet users (eyeballs) need content (e.g., YouTube and Hulu), content needs eyeballs, and users/content need networks to bring them together. Networks charge for access on both sides (hosting side and eyeball/access side). So both sides have already paid the toll.

    If the networks are allowed to meter, control, or retard Internet network performance based on type of content, and that control is passed among several transit or intermediate networks, the quality and usefulness of Internet in the United States will continue to fall behind and lag the rest of the world.

    Not in our interest.

  9. Ike Willis says:

    @Guest (12:20pm)

    You said, "It is troubling that the largest companies that stand to benefit have thrown large sums of money to lobby for "net neutrality", yet these same companies don't spend a dime in maintaining, expanding and updating the network infrastructure."

    Hogwash. Content companies pay hundreds of millions in bandwidth costs to communications companies -- companies that interconnect with other communications companies, which ultimately carry traffic to end users. This is known as a "value chain". These bandwidth fees do go to maintenance and upgrades -- or at least they should, if companies like Time Warner Cable weren't so stingy about making low-cost upgrades. The point is, there is a value chain, and if AT&T and others feel that certain parties are getting a "free ride", then they need to reassess their interconnection arrangements.

    Of course, the economics are working, which shows this "free ride" argument (first debunked way back in 2005) is nothing but a red herring.

  10. Ray Roy, whamcity.com, rayroy.tv says:

    It is not clear what peril 'internet freedom' is in and where said peril is coming from. Can someone post a link that shows in more detail the examples listed above of internet censorship? How can we be sure the FCC will not become the new censor? The FCC will be the "smart cop on the beat"? It seems like the FCC is preparing to take more control over the internet. I would trust this movement more if there were younger faces with impressive web credentials at the forefront of this movement, like innovative programmers who have made content and services that have united millions (billions?) through the web in truly free and open virtual-venues. Where is the voice of the true internet/technology generation? That would more accurately convey innovation and openness and the cause would be infinitely more believable.

  11. Jennie Rios, CCGconsult.com says:

    Set a date…. Broadband providers must recapture bandwidth in order to allot for "open internet" thus not throttling bandwidth. The bottom line is the same pipe that carries our internet signal also carries our Video TV programming, HD content, Digital Phone and other digital products. Massive amount of bandwidth are needed for HD content and for the tech's out there, we all know voice overrides data. The MSO's must recapture the bandwidth and digitize their pipe, hence a digital box on every single TV in your home, which will allow the end user to view a compressed signal. We are almost there but the road we must travel will be long and hard. My company looks forward to working with the FCC, MSO's and the end users on this broadband ‘open internet' adoption.

  12. Guest says:

    Do you remember the old saw about putting the government in charge of bison, and now there aren't any?

  13. Guest says:

    In the Chairman's speech at Brookings, he never uses the term \net neutrality\ although the press has certainly presented it that way. Is there a reason for that, and if so, what is it?

  14. Guest says:

    Thank you! For doing this.

    I can honestly say how cable providers need to be stopped from over charging for internet, you read my mind. I hope you get this passed without too much compromise.

  15. Brett Glass says:

    In a speech at ITIF on Friday, September 25th, 2009, former FCC Chief Technologist and "Grandfather of the Internet" David Farber had this to say regarding "network neutrality" regulation and its impact on innovation:

    ------

    Many of the "religious" discussions that take place in the "net neutrality" world offer the potential of having the technical community faced with this very difficult environment: "Go do your designs, but be careful. Because retroactively, what you do -- some regulator might say -- is not 'correct.'" It's very hard to work in that environment....

    I think the most important thing is that we have to create an environment where innovation is possible, where experimentation is possible, and where constraints are not imposed on the [engineering] field [by] any regulatory authority. Let the marketplace determine what's acceptable or not; so far, that has gotten us a long way. I'm not a true believer that the marketplace will always decide right, but after being in Washington for a year, I'm semi-convinced that I'd rather take a chance on that than [on] many of the regulatory environments.

    ------

    Wise words.

  16. Guest says:

    With the accelerated growth of the internet, embracing an open policy like this will be essential for the welfare of the internet as a whole. Single companies are finding it difficult to keep up with the growth and the only option is to embrace the resources that are provided by the masses that use the web. Acai

  17. Nick Ruark says:

    Mr. Chairman: It would appear that the Commission, through this blog and other channels, is at last making an effort to fully explore, learn, listen, digest, and, hopefully, understand the best methods of approaching the vast challenges it faces in bringing broadband Internet - particularly wireless broadband - to the masses. Wired Internet is, of course, one method; wireless Internet is yet another, but - please remember that it comes with an entirely different (and often overlooked or mis-applied) set of technical and network characteristics that are required to insure usable, reliable and non-interfering content delivery via any form of RF (radio frequency). Thus, I would strongly encourage the Commission to 1) pay very close attention to the many technical details that are associated with the provision of broadband Internet via radio frequency, and 2) just as close attention to the marketing spins and political rhetoric that it will be inundated with as it moves forward with its national broadband initiative. Not doing so would be entirely irresponsible and will most certainly doom the plan before it even gets underway. The protection of and the enforcement of existing (or revised) Rules and regulations regarding the use of the RF (wireless) spectrum should be the Commissions first priority; any economic benefits or gains resulting from the use of this resource should be secondary elements of the plan. Here's hoping you will deliver the public a responsible, well-thought-out plan. Good luck!

  18. Ryan says:

    The companies who are against net neutrality clearly want an Internet design where they are a regulating gateway that controls access to all online information. In this type of network they would make exponentially more profit (once from the consumer + from every application provider who wants speedy access).

    In addition to the extra money, they'd also get to charge consumers in such a way that pricing plans would be very confusing. For an example ISP #1 offers really fast access to www.google.com for $50/month, ISP #2 offers fast access to everything but www.yahoo.com for $90/month, etc. Multiplied by the number of Internet applications and sites and the $/Mbps would be impossible to understand.

    Its not clear why any network provider who could do these things would ever spend any money on making their network faster or better. It seems like it'd be much more profitable for the provider to spend their cycles sorting traffic and working out new content deals with Internet application providers.

    I'm think that the anti net neutrality approach is similar to the "walled garden" services that dial up providers used to have. That design wasn't considered beneficial to innovation or deployment and the Internet grew after the walled garden approach was (mostly) gone.

  19. Manny says:

    I completely agree with the rules that you've proposed, as I believe the internet should stay as open as it is and that no one should really be able to control the content and prevent users to get to certain information/sites in any way. And the prices are pretty much too high here in Serbia, mostly due to the monopoly of our Telekom, still it was even worse a couple of years back.

    Regards, Mana (<a href="http://eshoesreviews.com">shoes addict</a>) Rainy

  20. Dedon says:

    Thanks for sharing!

  21. Amega says:

    I definitely agree that the internet is being provided at too high a cost, obviously there are some fees to maintain it's use.... but the cost is too high for many people.

    <a href="http://www.discoverzeropoint.com">Amega Global</a>

  22. Guest says:

    My goodness! Is there ANYTHING the government will leave alone?! The Internet is as close as our country can get to true free enterprise and has yielded so many positive reults for our society and the world. Why should any governing body be allowed to step in and mess it up the way they do to everything they touch? Leave the Internet alone. If the big cable companies have a problem with the content interfering with their profits, then they need to be more competitive withtheir their offerings or more
    inventive with products of their own. It's called Capitalism.

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