Look for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Monday to outline some concrete steps on the pathway to network neutrality, including adopting a fifth, nondiscrimination principle, according to a source.
That is coming in a speech/discussion at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Billed as a discussion on Improving Broadband and Mobile Communications, it will also be a forum for laying out the chairman's plans to further the Obama adminitration's goal of network neutrality.
The fifth principle--the FCC already has four (see below)--would allow for reasonable network management, but not allow unreasonable discrimination in the provision of content and services.
That principle has been championed by Genachowski's predecessor, Michael Copps, who told an NCTA convention audience back in April that he thought a fifth, openness principle should be added, and make it enforceable, though he also said he thought that would have to wait for his successor.
Genachowski did not reveal his cards on steps toward network neutrality at an FCC oversight hearing Thursday, but he was not asked directly about those plans.
The biggest network neturality news out of that hearing was that Henry Waxman (D-CA) had joined as a co-sponsor on a network neutrality bill spearheaded by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ann Eshoo (D-CA), which would enshrine the FCC's four internet principles in law.
Brookings, on its Web site, says Genachowski will "announce some key elements of his ambitious broadband policy agenda." An FCC spokesperson would only confirm that those elements would, indeed, relate to network neutrality.
Also participating in the Brookings discussion are Ben Scott of Free Press, which has pushed for the fifth principle, and a representative from Verizon, which has said it would at least be open to adding the principle.
Currently, the FCC has four principles that guide its case-by-case enforcement of internet access, they are:
• To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of
• To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their
choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
• To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that
do not harm the network.
• To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers,
application and service providers, and content providers.
“We understand from reliable reports that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will announce on Monday that he will ask the Commission in October to propose rules for ensuring a free, open and non-discriminatory Internet," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn in response to reports of the network neutrality initiative.
“This is a very welcome development, and is years past due. The Internet was created and grew up under strict non-discrimination rules. Those same ideas are as valuable today as they were 10 years ago. Having rules in place will bring a degree of certainty that will help both carriers and consumers alike. Carriers will know what is allowed and what is not; consumers will be relieved to know they will be able to have access to any content and service on a non-discriminatory basis.
“We are confident that Net Neutrality rules will not hamper investment, as some critics have charged," she said.
"We will reserve full judgment until we know all the details, " said Free Press' Scott, "but we are very pleased to see the FCC protecting the open Internet's free market for speech and commerce. It will be a big win for consumers if the FCC delivers strong Net Neutrality rules that apply across all technologies. We look forward to working with the FCC to develop Net Neutrality rules that protect consumers and provide guidance and certainty for the industry."
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.