In a press conference where he compared the Federal Communications Commission to a "cop on the beat" protecting an open and free Internet, Chairman Julius Genachowski laid out the general framework for a net neutrality proposal he said was designed to empower consumers and entrepreneurs, spur investment in broadband infrastructure, and address the needs of Internet service providers.
The chairman laid out four points of the framework, which he said were rooted in ideas advocated in a bipartisan spirit and consistent with President Obama's commitment to keep the Internet "as it should be, open and free." The first tenant of the proposal concerns consumers' right to know how networks are being managed, which Genachowski labeled a "meaningful transparency obligation."
The second point concerned the consumer's right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic and prohibit the blocking of lawful content, applications and services. The third tenant of the proposal addressed the consumer's right to a level playing field and a bar on unreasonable discrimination of unlawful traffic. The fourth and final tenant of the proposal concerned the needs of broadband providers to provide incentive to build out and expand their networks.
"For our global competitiveness, we want world leading broadband networks in the U.S. that are the freest and fastest in the world," Genachowski said.
The chairman warned there are real risks to the Internet's continued freedom and openness. "Broadband providers have prevented consumers from using the applications of their choice. The framework is designed to guard against these risks while protecting the needs and interests of providers," he said. "Broadband plays an essential part in allowing small businesses to lower their cost and reach new customers around the globe. It is the Internet's openness and freedom that have enabled its unparalleled success. It is a quality that must be preserved and protected."
He noted the proposal would build upon framework developed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman and Sen. Harry Waxman, D-Calif., which would see the agency move phone and cable companies into the Title II, or Broadcast Servers, section of the Telecommunications Act passed in 1996. In September, legislation aimed at regulating how Internet providers such as Comcast offer Internet service to their customers collapsed in the face of Republican opposition.
"The proposal's animating force is shared appreciation for the Internet's wondrous contribution to our economy. It has been an unprecedented platform for the American spirit of innovation," Genachowski said. "It is a central part of the daily lives of Americans, and a strong engine of job creation and economic growth. We have very important work to do for the American people in the months ahead."
The FCC also announced the tentative agenda for the next open meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 21, including the Open Internet Order, an Order adopting basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, competition and free expression. These rules would protect consumers' and innovators' right to know basic information about broadband service, right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic, and right to a level playing field, while providing broadband Internet access providers with the flexibility to "reasonably manage their networks."
Topics selected for FCC open meeting agendas are posted on the Commission's Website approximately three weeks prior to the Commission's next monthly meeting. The FCC will also issue a public notice of the "Commission Meeting Agenda" one week before the meeting and announce at that time the items that are scheduled for the agenda. Commission meetings are open to the public, who can attend in person at the FCC headquarters.