The rise of serious challenges to the free and open Internet puts us at a crossroads. We could see the Internetís doors shut to entrepreneurs, the spirit of innovation stifled, a full and free flow of information compromised. Or we could take steps to preserve Internet openness, helping ensure a future of opportunity, innovation, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas.
I understand the Internet is a dynamic network and that technology continues to grow and evolve. I recognize that if we were to create unduly detailed rules that attempt to address every possible assault on openness, such rules would become outdated quickly. But the fact that the Internet is evolving rapidly does not mean we can, or should, abandon the underlying values fostered by an open network, or the important goal of setting rules of the road to protect the free and open Internet.
Saying nothing and doing nothing would impose its own form of unacceptable cost. It would deprive innovators, investors, and the public of confidence that a free and open Internet we depend upon today will still be here tomorrow. It would deny the benefits of predictable rules of the road to all players in the Internet ecosystem. And it would be a dangerous retreat from the core principle of openness -- the freedom to innovate without permission -- that has been a hallmark of the Internet since its inception, and has made it so stunningly successful as a platform for innovation, opportunity, and prosperity.
In view of these challenges and opportunities, and because it is vital that the Internet continue to be an engine of innovation, economic growth, competition, and democratic engagement, I believe the Federal Communications Commission must be a smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet.
This is how I propose we move forward: To date, the FCC has addressed these issues by announcing four Internet principles that guide our case-by-case enforcement of the communications laws. These principles can be summarized as:
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. These principles were initially articulated by Chairman Michael Powell in 2004 as the ďFour Freedoms,Ē based on work that was done under Chairman Reid Hundt in the late 1990s, and later endorsed in a unanimous 2005 policy statement issued by the Commission under Chairman Kevin Martin and with the forceful support of Commissioner Michael Copps, who of course remains on the Commission today. In the years since 2005, the Internet has continued to evolve and the FCC has issued a number of important decisions involving openness. Today, I propose that the FCC adopt the existing principles as Commission rules, along with two additional principles that reflect the evolution of the Internet and that are essential to ensuring its continued openness.
The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination -- stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribersí homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and what applications succeed.
This principle will not prevent broadband providers from reasonably managing their networks. During periods of network congestion, for example, it may be appropriate for providers to ensure that very heavy users do not crowd out everyone else. And this principle will not constrain efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and spam-free Internet experience, or to enforce the law. It is vital that illegal -- that illegal conduct be curtailed on the Internet. As I said in my Senate confirmation hearing, open Internet principles apply only to lawful content, services, and applications -- not to activities like unlawful distribution of copyrighted works, which has serious economic consequences. The enforcement of copyright and other laws and the obligations of network openness can and must co-exist.
I also recognize that there may be benefits to innovation and investment of broadband providers offering managed services in limited circumstances. These services are different from traditional broadband Internet access, and some have argued they should be analyzed under a different framework. I believe such services can supplement, but must not supplant, free and open Internet access, and that we must ensure that ample bandwidth exists for all Internet users and innovators. In the rulemaking process I will discuss in a moment, we will carefully consider how to approach the question of -- of managed services in a way that maximizes the innovation and investment necessary for a robust and thriving Internet.
I will propose that the FCC evaluate alleged violations of the non-discrimination principle as they arise, on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that the Internet is an extraordinarily complex and dynamic system. This approach, within the framework I am proposing today, will allow the Commission to make reasoned, fact-based determinations based on the Internet before it, not based on the Internet of years past or guesses about how the Internet will evolve.
The sixth principle is a transparency principle -- stating that providers of Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices. Why does the FCC need to adopt this principle? The Internet evolved through open standards. It was conceived as a tool whose user manual be -- would be free and available to all. But new network management practices and technologies challenge this original understanding. Today, broadband providers have the technical ability to change how the Internet works for millions of users -- with profound consequences for those users and content, application, and service providers around the world.
To take one example, last year the FCC ruled on the blocking of peer-to-peer transmissions by a cable broadband provider. The blocking was initially implemented with no notice to subscribers or the public. It was discovered only after an engineer and hobbyist living in Oregon realized that his attempts to share public domain recordings of old barbershop quartet songs over a home Internet connection were being frustrated. It was not until he brought the problem to the attention of the media and Internet community, which then brought it to the attention of the FCC, that the improper network management practice became known and was stopped.
We cannot afford to rely on happenstance for consumers, businesses, and policymakers to learn about changes to the basic functioning of the Internet. Greater transparency will give consumers the confidence of knowing that theyíre getting the service theyíve paid for, enable innovators to make their offerings work effectively over the Internet, and allow policymakers to ensure that broadband providers are preserving the Internet as a level playing field. It will also help facilitate discussion among all the participants in the Internet ecosystem, which can reduce the need for government involvement in network management disagreements.
To be clear, the transparency principle will not require broadband providers to disclose personal information about subscribers or information that might compromise the security of the network, and there will be a mechanism to protect competitively sensitive data.
In considering the openness of the Internet, it is also important to recognize that our choice of technologies and devices for accessing the Internet continues to expand at a dizzying pace. New mobile and satellite broadband networks are getting faster every day, and extraordinary devices like smartphones and wireless data cards are making it easier to stay connected while on the go. And I note the beginnings of a trend towards openness among several participants in the mobile marketplace.
Even though each form of Internet access has unique technical characteristics, they are all are different roads to the same place. It is essential that the Internet itself remain open, however users reach it. The principles Iíve been speaking about apply to the Internet however accessed, and I will ask my fellow Commissioners at the FCC to join me in confirming this.
Of course, how the principles apply may differ depending on the access platform or technology. The rulemaking process will enable the Commission to analyze fully the implications of the principles for our mobile network architectures and practices -- and how, as a practical matter, they can be fairly and appropriately implemented. As we tackle these complex questions involving different technologies used for Internet access, let me be clear that we -- we will be focused on formulating policies that will maximize innovation and investment, consumer choice, and greater competition.
Iíve talked about what we need to do. Now Iíd like to talk about how we should do it.1
I will soon circulate to my fellow Commissioners proposed rules prepared by Commission staff embodying the principles Iíve discussed, and I will ask for their support in issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking. This notice will provide the public with a detailed explanation of what we propose to do and why.
Equally importantly, the notice will ask for input and feedback on the proposed rules and their application, such as how to determine whether network management practices are reasonable, and what information broadband providers should disclose about their network management practices and in what form. And, as I indicated earlier, it will pose a series of detailed questions on how the Internet openness principles should apply to mobile broadband.
While my goals are clear -- to ensure the Internet remain a free and open platform that promotes innovation, investment, competition, and user interests -- our path to implementing them is not pre-determined. I will ensure that the rulemaking process will be fair, transparent, fact-based, data-driven. Anyone will be able to participate in this process, and I hope everyone will. We will hold a number of public workshops and, of course, use the Internet and other new media tools to facilitate participation. Today weíve launched a new website, www.openinternet.gov, to kick off discussion of the issues Iíve been talking about. We encourage everyone to visit the site and contribute to the process.
Some have argued that the FCC should not take affirmative steps to protect the Internetís openness. Let me be clear about what this is about, and what it isnít. The fundamental goal of what Iíve outlined today is preserving the openness and freedom of the Internet. We have an obligation to ensure that the Internet is an enduring engine for U.S. economic growth, and a foundation for democracy in the 21st century. We have an obligation to ensure that the Internet remains a vast landscape of innovation and opportunity.
This is not about government regulation of the Internet. Itís about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the Internet. We will do as much as we need to do, and no more, to ensure that the Internet remains an unfettered platform for competition, creativity, and entrepreneurial activity.
This is not about protecting the Internet against imaginary dangers. Weíre seeing the breaks and cracks emerge, and they threaten to change the Internetís fundamental architecture of openness. This would shrink opportunities for innovators, content creators, and small businesses around the country, and limit the full and free expression the Internet promises. This is about preserving and maintaining something profoundly successful and ensuring that itís not distorted or undermined. If we wait too long to preserve a free and open Internet, it will be too late.
Some will seek to invoke innovation and investment as reasons not to adopt open Internet rules. But historyís lesson is clear: Ensuring a robust and open Internet is the best thing we can do to promote innovation and investment. And while there are some who see every policy decision as either pro-business or pro-consumer, I reject that approach. Itís not the right way to see technologyís role in America.
An open Internet will benefit both consumers and businesses. The principles that will protect the open Internet are an essential step to maximizing investment and innovation in the network -- on the edge of it, in the cloud -- by establishing rules of the road that incentivize competition, empower entrepreneurs, and grow the economic pie to the benefit of all.
I believe we share a common purpose: We want the Internet to continue flourishing as a platform for innovation and communication, with continued investment and increasing deployment of broadband to all Americans. I believe my fellow Commissioners share this purpose, and I look forward to working collaboratively with them in this endeavor.
In closing, we are here because 40 years ago a bunch of researchers in a lab changed the way computers interact and, as a result, changed the world. We are here because those Internet pioneers had unique insights about the power of open networks to transform lives for the better, and they did something about it. Our work now is to preserve the brilliance of what they contributed to our country and the world. Itís to make sure that, in the 21st century, the garage, the basement, and the dorm room remain places where innovators can not only dream but bring their dreams to life. And that's something none of us can be neutral about.
1 A nice example of a two-part transitional statement -- a brief, abstract summary of content just covered followed by an equally brief and abstract preview of content immediately forthcoming -- and exhibiting commendable semantic (number of words) and syntactic (arrangement of the parts of speech) balance.
Text and Audio Source:
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Public domain. Audio = Uncertain.