Open Meeting Statements - Preserving the Open Internet
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI
STATEMENT ON PRESERVING INTERNET FREEDOM AND OPENNESS
December 21, 2010Let me start with a quote. "The Web as we know it [is] being threatened."
That's Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, in a recent article. He
continued, "A neutral communications medium is the basis of a fair, competitive market
economy, of democracy, and of science. Although the Internet and the Web generally
thrive on lack of regulation, some basic values have to be legally preserved."
Today, for the first time, the FCC is adopting rules to preserve basic Internet values.
While the Commission had in the past pursued bipartisan enforcement of Open Internet
principles, we have not had properly adopted rules.
Now, for the first time, we'll have enforceable, high-level rules of the road to preserve
Internet freedom and openness.
As we stand here now, the freedom and openness of the Internet are unprotected. No
rules on the books to protect basic Internet values. No process for monitoring Internet
openness as technology and business models evolve. No recourse for innovators,
consumers, or speakers harmed by improper practices. And no predictability for Internet
service providers, so that they can effectively manage and invest in broadband networks.
That will change once we vote to approve this strong and balanced order.
The vote on this order comes after many months of debate -- which has often produced
more heat than light.
Almost everyone says that they agree that the openness of the Internet is essential -- that
openness has unleashed an enormous wave of innovation, economic growth, job creation,
small business generation, and vibrant free expression.
But despite a shared allegiance to the Internet as an open platform, there has been intense
disagreement about the role of government in preserving Internet freedom and openness.
On one end of the spectrum, there are those who say government should do nothing at all
on open Internet. On the other end are those who would adopt extensive, detailed and
Both sides impose tests of ideological purity. To some, unless their test is met, open
Internet rules are "fake net neutrality." To others, unless their test is met, open internet
rules are "a government takeover of the Internet."
For myself, I reject both extremes in favor of a strong and sensible, non-ideological
framework one that protects Internet freedom and openness and promotes robust
innovation and investment throughout the broadband ecosystem.
Because none of these goals are abstractions. They live or die not in ideology or theory,
but in practice -- in the hard work of grappling with technology, business, and real-world
Now, in this issue we encounter familiar arguments we've heard some today the kind
trotted out to oppose almost any government action.
We are told by some, for example, not to try to fix what isn't broken, and that rules of the
road protecting Internet freedom would discourage innovation and investment.
But countless innovators, investors and business executives say just the opposite,
including many who generally oppose government action.
Over the course of this proceeding we have heard from so many entrepreneurs, engineers,
venture capitalists, CEOs and others working daily to invent and distribute new Internet
products and thereby maintain U.S. leadership in innovation.
Their message has been clear: the next decade of innovation in this sector is at risk
without sensible FCC rules of the road.
As one leading early stage investor put it, in thoughts echoed in a letter we receiving
from 30 prominent venture capitalists: "the lack of basic `rules of the road' for what
network providers and others can and can't do is starting to hamper innovation and
And as we heard in a letter from more than two dozen leading technology CEOs:
"Common sense baseline rules are critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a key
engine of economic growth, innovation, and global competitiveness."
The innovators, entrepreneurs, and tech leaders recognize, as I do, the vital need for
massive investment in broadband infrastructure.
Based on their in-market experience they also tell us that broadband providers have
natural business incentives to leverage their positions as gatekeepers of the Internet in
ways that would stifle innovation and limit the benefits of the Internet.
They point out that, even after the Commission on a bipartisan basis announced open
Internet principles in 2005, we have seen clear and troubling deviations from open
Given the importance of an open Internet to our economic future, given the potentially
irreversible nature of some harmful practices, and given the competition issues among
broadband providers, it is essential that the FCC fulfill its historic role as a cop on the
beat to ensure the vitality of our communications networks and to empower and protect
consumers of those networks.
Now at the same time, government must not overreach by imposing rules that are overly
restrictive or that assume perfect knowledge about this dynamic and rapidly changing
We know that to meet our broadband speed and deployment goals for the country
broadband providers must have the business incentives to invest many billions of dollars
to build out their networks, the ability to run their networks effectively, and the flexibility
to experiment with new business models to further drive private investment.
Today, we are adopting a set of high-level rules of the road that strikes the right balance
between the imperatives.
We're adopting a framework that will increase certainty for businesses, investors, and
In key respects, the interests of edge innovators the entrepreneurs creating Internet
content, services, and applications broadband providers, and American consumers are
Innovation at the edge catalyzes consumer demand for broadband. Consumer demand
spurs private investment in faster broadband networks. And faster networks spark ever-
cooler innovation at the edge.
I believe our action today will foster an ongoing cycle of massive investment, innovation
and consumer demand both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks.
Our action will strengthen the Internet job-creation engine.
Our action will advance our goal of having America's broadband networks be the freest
and fastest in the world.
Our action will ensure Internet freedom at home, a necessary foundation to fight for
Internet freedom around the world.
The crux of the order we are adopting which is based on a strong and sound legal
framework is straightforward.
Here are the key principles it enshrines, and the key rules designed to preserve Internet
freedom and openness:
First, consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance
characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed.
The transparency rule we adopt today will give consumers and innovators the clear and
simple information they need to make informed choices in choosing networks or
designing the next killer app.
Shining a light on network management practices will also have an important deterrent
effect on bad conduct.
Second, consumers and innovators have a right to send and receive lawful traffic to go
where they want, say what they want, experiment with ideas commercial and social,
and use the devices of their choice. The rules thus prohibit the blocking of lawful
content, apps, services, and the connection of devices to the network.
Third, consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field. No central
authority, public or private, should have the power to pick winners and losers on the
Internet; that's the role of the commercial market and the marketplace of ideas.
So we are adopting a ban on unreasonable discrimination. And we are making clear that
we are not approving so-called "pay for priority" arrangements involving fast lanes for
some companies but not others.
The order states that as a general rule such arrangements won't satisfy the no-
unreasonable-discrimination standard because it simply isn't consistent with an open
Internet for broadband providers to skew the marketplace by favoring one idea or
application or service over another by selectively prioritizing Internet traffic.
Fourth, the rules recognize that broadband providers need meaningful flexibility to
manage their networks to deal with congestion, security, and other issues. And we also
recognize the importance and value of business-model experimentation, such as tiered
These are practical necessities, and will help promote investment in, and expansion of,
high-speed broadband networks. So, for example, the order rules make clear that
broadband providers can engage in "reasonable network management".
Fifth, the principle of Internet openness applies to mobile broadband. There is one
Internet, and it must remain an open platform, however consumers and innovators access
And so today we are adopting, for the first time, broadly applicable rules requiring
transparency for mobile broadband providers, and prohibiting them from blocking
websites or blocking certain competitive applications.
As I have said for many months, as many innovators and entrepreneurs have told us, and
as the facts and record bear out, there are differences between mobile and fixed
broadband that are relevant in determining what action government should take for
mobile at this time.
Among the differences: unique technical issues involving spectrum and mobile
networks, the stage and rate of innovation in mobile broadband; and market structure.
Also, one of the largest mobile broadband providers has just begun providing 4G service
using wireless spectrum subject to openness conditions adopted in connection with the
auction of that spectrum.
Importantly, our order makes clear that we are not endorsing or approving practices that
the order doesn't prohibit, particularly conduct that is barred for fixed broadband.
And we affirm our commitment to an ongoing process to ensure the continued evolution
of mobile broadband in a way that's consistent with Internet freedom and openness.
Any reduction in mobile Internet openness would be a cause for concern--as would any
reduction in innovation and investment in mobile broadband applications, devices, or
networks that depend on Internet openness.
Sixth, and finally, today's order recognizes the importance of vigilance--vigilance in
promptly enforcing the rules we are adopting and vigilance in monitoring developments
in areas such as mobile and the market for specialized services, which may affect Internet
That's why I'm pleased that we've committed to create an Open Internet Advisory
Committee that will assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness
and the effects of our rules.
We're also launching an Open Internet Apps Challenge on challenge.gov that will foster
private-sector development of applications to empower consumers with information
about their own broadband connections, which will also help protect Internet openness.
The rules of the road we adopt today are rooted in ideas first articulated by Republican
Chairmen Michael Powell and Kevin Martin, and endorsed in a unanimous FCC policy
statement in 2005.
And they are grounded in the record we have developed over the last 14 months,
including more than 100,000 public comments, numerous public workshops, and
hundreds of meetings with stakeholders ranging across the spectrum.
I am proud of this process, which has been one of the most transparent in FCC history.
And I am proud of the result, which has already garnered broad support from the
technology industry, including TechNet, the Information Technology Industry Council,
the Internet Innovation Alliance and the hundreds of technology companies those groups
represent, as well as many other technology companies; support from investors of all
sizes, including some of the nation's preeminent venture capitalists and angel investors.
Our framework has also drawn support from key consumer, labor, and civil rights groups,
a list that includes the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the Center
for Democracy and Technology, and the Communications Workers of America. I thank
them and the other groups that have worked on this issue.
And our framework has been supported by a number of broadband providers as well, who
recognize the sensible balance of our action and the value of bringing a level of certainty
to this fraught issue.
Our action today culminates recent efforts to find common ground on this challenging
issue here at the FCC, as well by private parties, and in Congress. I thank each of those
who took their time over the last several months to take on these difficult issues, seeking
to bridge gaps and find solutions, and who supported us in our efforts.
I want to praise and thank my colleagues Commissioners Copps and Clyburn particularly,
for their vision and constancy in pushing this Commission to focus on the interest of
consumers. Their work has certainly improved our rules and order.
As Commissioner McDowell and Commissioner Baker pointed out, virtually all of our
decisions are bipartisan or unanimous, and I look forward to working together on a series
of items to serve the public and grow the economy.
And I can't express enough appreciation to the remarkable staff of the FCC, who have
worked so hard and so well to wrestle with difficult issues and turn complex ideas
into simple rules.
This includes many offices and bureaus at the FCC, including the Office of General
Counsel, the Office of Strategic Planning, the Office Engineering and Technology, and
the Wireline, Wireless, Media, Consumer, Enforcement, and International Bureaus.
Thank you all.
And thank you to all the staff on the 8th floor, and in particular to the extraordinary team
I'm lucky to have in the Chairman's office. Eddie Lazarus, Zac Katz, Rick Kaplan, Josh
Gottheimer, Jen Howard, Daniel Ornstein, and Maria Gaglio you've each gone well
above and beyond the call of duty. I apologize to your families. But I know they join me
in honoring your service.
Thanks to the work of these incredible public servants, today a strengthened FCC is
adopting rules to ensure that the Internet remains a powerful platform for innovation and
job creation; to empower consumers and entrepreneurs; and protect free expression.
These rules will increase certainty in the marketplace; spur investment both at the edge
and in the core of our broadband networks, and contribute to a 21st century job-creation
engine in the United States.
Finally, these rules fulfill many promises, including a promise to the future a promise to
the companies that don't yet exist, and the entrepreneurs who haven't yet started work in
their dorm rooms or garages.
For all that, I am proud to cast my vote.
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