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FCC chief throws weight behind net neutrality

Net neutrality is a hotly debated and controversial issue

The chairman of US communications authority the FCC on Monday vocalised his support for net neutrality as a way of preserving the free and open internet.

In a speech, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Julius Genachowski outlined the steps he believes the Commission must take to ensure all net traffic, services and applications are treated equally.

The call for neutrality expands upon the FCC’s previous drive behind four open internet principles supporting consumers’ ability to access the lawful internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network.

The addition of two new principles would prevent internet access providers from discriminating against content or applications, while allowing for “reasonable network management”. The second principle would ensure that internet providers are transparent about the network management practices they use.

“The internet is an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, investment, and opportunity. It has unleashed the potential of entrepreneurs and enabled the launch and growth of small businesses across America,” said Genachowski.  “It is vital that we safeguard the free and open internet.”

Genachowski will seek to begin the process of codifying the proposed principles at the October meeting. In the meantime, the FCC has launched a website at openInternet.gov to encourage public participation in the move.

The concept of net neutrality is a hotly debated and controversial issue, with the content and application providers of the internet world accusing broadband network operators of acting as gatekeepers, preventing consumers from enjoying the full range of innovation and choice available through the open internet.

To date, the issue has only been seriously contested in the US, where a union of web companies including YouTube, Skype, Google and eBay have been lobbying the FCC with some apparent success  to take a stronger role in promoting a neutral and open internet. With the inauguration of Barack Obama as president it looks like that the net neutrality proposal might get a better hearing. Obama is a known supporter of net neutrality, a stance which may have broad ramifications for both fixed and mobile operators that provide internet access and data services. In an appearance on MTV during his presidential campaign in 2007, Obama pledged to appoint only supporters of net neutrality as commissioners at the FCC, a promise made good when Genachowski was appointed chairman.


One comment

  1. Andrew 22/09/2009 @ 1:51 pm

    I applaud this initiative taken by FCC. The freedom of the Internet is more important than operators having complete control over content and type of traffic.

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