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Liveblogging the Vote on Rules Protecting the Open Internet

December 21st, 2010 by George Krebs

FCC December Open Commission Meeting, Washington, D.C.

Today’s meeting is being live streamed. We’re also live tweeting this morning from @FCC. Join the conversation for these open Internet rules using #oir. A statement from Chairman Genachowski and the full slate of commissioners will be posted to the FCC homepage shortly following the meeting.

10:24am ET

This is about the vibrancy of the Internet. Its freedom, its openness, its unfathomable potential. Today we affirm that hallmark. The last twenty years have demonstrated the importance of the Internet in virtually every layer of American society. Yet adequate protections currently do not exist. These rules will get the job done.

Every student who dreams an app, every curious tinkerer who devises a device, every innovator who sees an opening to push our nation forward. And every speaker who enters their discourse into the marketplace of ideas, every business owner who reaches for the next American summit. That’s who we’re protecting today. While we recognize the need for a measure of restraint in this changing landscape, and have included provisions to that end, the wonders of the Internet must not be stifled.

The majority of the focus this morning will center around the open Internet rules. Today’s commission meeting, however, will hear two items. First, a presentation from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau on a Framework for Next Generation 911 Deployment. This will mark watershed movement for our nation’s first responders by developing a framework to provide multimedia resources beyond voice-only. Then we will tackle the final item, Preserving the Open Internet. Votes on both of these items will follow their presentation.

10:57am ET

The commissioners take their place and the meeting is set to begin. A capacity crowd is on hand to witness this historic day.

First, the Next Generation 911 item.  As Public Safety Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett announces, the order takes the form of a “Notice of inquiry concerning the transition from the current, voice-only 911 system to a broadband-enabled, next-generation 911 system.” More complex participation, allowing for texts, video, and multimedia in contacting 911. After the presentation, commissioners make remarks.

11:16am ET

“It’s time to bring 911 into the digital age… 911 is an indispensible tool. Broadband can make it even better,” Chairman Genachowski says. Commissioners’ comments are roundly positive with Commissioner Baker thanking public safety professionals, first responders, and agency staff for vaulting 911 into the next generation. Vote on the Notice of Inquiry for deployment passes unanimously.

11:22am ET

We now move to the momentous item of the morning. FCC staff line the table to present the Preserving the Open Internet and Broadband Industry Practices order. Chairman Genachowski cedes the microphone to Sharon Gillette, Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau.

“This order will establish three basic rules: transparency, no blocking, and no unreasonable discrimination,” Gillette says. “Collectively they protect and empower consumers. Provide clarity for broadband providers.”

Entrepreneurs, investors and consumers depend on these principles. Broadband providers require stability. Home broadband has grown astronomically and they now have the financial viability they seek. “Rules we propose will bring increased certainty to this vital sector of the American economy,” Paul de Sa says.

11:27am ET

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Ruth Milkman takes over. Consumers are using mobile broadband at an accelerating pace. Users are gaining greater access to a diverse range of applications and programs. Concerns have been raised about blocking. We are adopting a measured approach. Mobile providers may not block access to lawful websites or block apps that compete with their voice and video telephony services, where providers have the most incentive to leverage their position.

11:32am ET

Chief Counsel Austin Schlick details the Commission’s legal authority. The 1996 Act confers “authority and discretion to settle on the best regulatory or deregulatory approach to broadband.” We’re also charged with promoting competition, overseeing broadcasting. Blocking limits the ability of broadcasters to have equal access over the internet. “In short,” Schlick says, “the open Internet rules will permit efficient, nation-wide communications.”

11:48am ET

With the conclusion of the presentation, senior Commissioner Michael Copps begins. “It is my hope we will continue the great American Internet story… We cannot afford to relegate Internet authority to large corporations and think of what might have been.” Previous communications technologies have also fallen victim to private control. “In 2003 I warned that the Internet may be dying because of a lack of provisions.”

All we need to do is look at the history of the FCC. Commissioner Copps gives a brief history of the outgrowth of the telephone and demonstrates how its deregulated path follows that of the Internet. “Sound familiar?” Copps asks. One company, AT&T, insisted that for safety and maximum progress they needed to dominate the industry. He fears today’s order doesn’t go far enough, “in my book today’s action would and could have gone further. I considered dissent very seriously. But it’s clear to me that without action today, work on network neutrality would halt.” Copps ensures the importance of today is lost on no one. “We have in our grasp now the most promising communications technology in all of history. Needs to be responsive to all, available to all, and affordable.”

12:09pm ET

Commissioner Robert McDowell begins his dissent – “for those joining us for the first time” – by noting that over 90% of the votes at the FCC are bipartisan and unanimous. He disagrees sharply with how we should provide for an open Internet. “The era of legal Internet arbitrage has dawned,” he says. Says the measure is becoming politicized. McDowell sites several government studies to bolster his argument. His contention: nothing is broken that needs fixing; FCC does not have authority; proposed rules will cause irreparable harm.

12:23pm ET

Two lengthy statements later Commissioner Mignon Clyburn makes remarks. She will concur in part, approve in part. There are areas in the current order she would have liked strengthened. “First, I would have extended all of the fixed rules to mobile. Some communities, such as African-Americans, rely on mobile Internet more than others.” While the route taken is not the one she would have picked, she believes it is appropriate for the Commission to act. “Without an open Internet, consumers will have few choices and opportunities.”

12:44pm ET

“I really, really, really dissent,” says Commissioner Meredith Baker. The Commission put its thumb on the scale for how the Internet will operate. “At best, the majority solves a problem of its own making.” She says this order will add to uncertainty. Baker details her seven complaints, warning against preventing prospective harm.

12:53pm ET

As the final speaker of the afternoon, Chairman Genachowski takes the mantle. He opens with a quote from World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, “The Web as we know it [is] being threatened.” Today we are adopting enforceable rules to preserve open Internet values, The freedom and openness of Internet is unprotected. No process for monitoring, no recourse for innovators, no predictability for providers.

There are those on both extremes, Chairman Genachowski says, I reject both. “We heard familiar comments today, often trotted out to oppose any government action.” The lack of basic rules of the road are starting to hamper growth. Commonsense rules are key for economic growth, job creation and competitiveness. Even after the Commission promoted Open Internet principles in 2005, we’ve seen clear deviations.

At the same time, government must not overreach or pretend to have knowledge about this dynamic and rapidly changing marketplace that we do not possess. “Today we’re adopting rules of the road that strike the right balance,” he says. “Our action will advance our goal of having America’s broadband networks be the freest and fastest in the world. And our action will ensure Internet freedom at home, a foundation of our argument for Internet freedom around the world.”

The Chairman will now lay out the key principles the order enshrines.

12:58pm ET

The six principles are as follows:

1) Transparency. Consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed.

2) No Blocking. A right to send and receive lawful traffic. This prohibits blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network

3) Level Playing Field. A right to a level playing field. A ban on unreasonable discrimination.  No approval for so-called “pay for priority” arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others.

4) Network Management. An allowance for broadband providers to engage in reasonable network management. These rules don’t forbid providers from offering subscribers tiers of service or charging based on bandwidth consumed.

5) Mobile. Broadly applicable rules requiring transparency for mobile broadband providers, and prohibiting them from blocking websites and certain competitive applications.

6) Vigilance. Creation of an Open Internet Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of our rules.

1:07pm ET

Chairman Genachowski concludes his remarks and the afternoon’s meeting. “Today a strengthened FCC is adopting rules that empower consumers and entrepreneurs and protect free expression. These rules fulfill many promises, including a promise to the future. A promise to the companies that don’t yet exist, the entrepreneurs that haven’t yet started work in the dorm rooms or garages.”

A vote is taken and the order passes 3 – 2, with “ayes” from Genachowski, Copps and Clyburn; dissents from McDowell and Baker.

Preserving a Free and Open Internet [video]

December 2nd, 2010 by George Krebs

In his clarion call yesterday morning Chairman Julius Genachowski laid out a proposal for basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, job creation, competition, and free expression.

These rules rest on three basic tenets:
1) Americans have the freedom to access lawful content on the Internet, without discrimination
2) Consumers have the right to basic information about your broadband service
3) The Internet will remain a level playing field.

This proposal is deeply rooted in history. The grounding ideas were first articulated by Republican Chairmen Powell and Martin and, in 2005, endorsed in a unanimous FCC policy statement. Chairman Genachowski cited the many months of hard work leading up to this moment – hard work across government, industry and broadband providers – and the substantial response received from the engaged public.

Watch the HD video below

(This is cross-posted on The Official FCC Blog.)

Live Blogging the “Speech & Democratic Engagement” Workshop

December 15th, 2009 by George Krebs

1:12 PM EDT
On your way to work, between flipping through pages of your book on an e-reader, you check your email on your phone. When you’re ready to leave in the evening you check the train schedule on that very same phone. Once home you surf the web to order your holiday presents and watch a video online. Just a few short years ago many of these tools on the Internet that we now consider essential to our everyday living did not exist.

The Internet is changing rapidly and all indications point to a pace that will not slow. Today’s workshop will explore the myriad possibilities that today’s dynamic Internet has allowed. From news, to entertainment, to social networking, to law, and every conceivable realm in between, the Internet is changing the landscape as we know it. Today’s panel represents bloggers, minority media owners, community and advocacy groups, and legal scholars (and we even have a legal scholar who moonlights as a blogger). We have quite a line-up here today which promises some great discussion on a fascinating topic.

1:35 PM EDT
The panel is being moderated by Stuart Benjamin, an impressive introduction given that this is his first day at the FCC as the Distinguished Scholar in Residence. Commissioners Copps, McDowell and Clyburn will give statements, and then the panel will begin.

1:46 PM EDT
Michele Combs, from the Christian Coalition of America, explains that the Coalition is connected in every way imaginable. They tweet their members, produce YouTube videos, and ensure that they make the most of web capabilities in reaching out to their constituents. With these tools they compiled and distributed to churches voter guides for the Presidential race last year. When an amendment they opposed came up in congress, they organized their base and facilitated the mailing of hundreds of thousands of emails to congressional members to defeat it. She emphasizes that the open Internet allows them to “reach members directly without a media filter.”  She is concerned about invasion from Internet service providers. “The open Internet levels the playing field” and allows them to get their message out to all of their members to coalesce around the issue of the moment. Ms. Combs stresses that the rules shouldn’t overstep their bounds; but more importantly her organization’s message should not be submerged for their ideological bent.

1:53 PM EDT
As Commissioner Mignon Clyburn made clear in her opening remarks, the Open Internet proceedings affect minority business owners as much as any other stakeholder.  One such company is Jonathan Moore’s Rowdy Orbit. The company gives an online platform for programming featuring African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, and is primarily intended for those audiences. Mr. Moore created the media company “out of frustration over the lack of representation of people of color in traditional media… The only way I could create and deliver a solid platform was the Internet,” he says. He explains that these shows are examples of “Great storytelling that would have been shelved by a traditional process” and give “an unobstructed direct line to an under-served viewing audience. A launching pad for quality multicultural programming.” Another advantage of the Internet is that it’s incredibly inexpensive. “From the start of developing the business plan to today, my out-of-pocket investment has been only $526.” This is the quintessential business success story of the poor immigrant coming to America with a few dollars in his pocket and making it big. The Internet has given Rowdy Orbit that chance.

2:10 PM EDT
Professor Glenn Reynolds has an interesting perspective and speaks to the immeasurable opportunities that the Internet is creating. A few years ago, he says, he founded What began as a means for him to supplement his Constitutional Law classes with some relevant blogging on the side, has become a full fledged opinion site with between 400,000 and 500,000 views a day. He discusses how the Internet is entirely upending journalism, allowing independent journalists to report on the ground from Iraq and Afghanistan based solely on reader contributions. Also touching on the value of citizen reporting, he says that there is now typically someone there to capture news instantly as it happens. In moments it can be viewed by millions. Low barriers to entry on the Internet, he says, facilitate all of this.

2:18 PM EDT
Online video is in its nascent stages and Ruth Livier is a pioneer. She was the first person to join the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) for her work on the web.  She produces and stars in a show called Ylse, about a struggling, modern American Latina woman. The show has become enormously successful and now boasts half a million viewers in only its second season in production. She hasn’t spent a dollar on marketing. She says, “As an American and a Latina I got tired of seeing disproportionate amounts of negative stereotypes… I saw in the web an opportunity to partake in redefining those unfair and unbalanced perceptions.” The Internet allowed her that chance to grow her show with few obstacles. “There is no way I could have gotten my show produced through traditional media,” Ms. Livier says. Given the success of her show she now has employees. “As a small business owner, I hope to create jobs and open opportunities for others.” These possibilities depend on the Internet as an open and growing platform. She concludes, “A neutral Internet is our best opportunity for diverse voices to partake in the molding of the American perception and perspective.”

2:25 PM EDT
Yale Law professor Jack Balkin forcefully argues against allowing Internet Service Providers to play the roll of free speech arbiter. “The first amendment protects speech; it does not protect business models,” he concludes. He also emphasized the need for transparency on the part of providers who block content. Bob Corn-Revere, a partner at David, Wright, Tremaine law firm is opposed to net neutrality rules, citing Commissioner Robert McDowell’s opening statement in which he said that when a company makes a mistake it affects that company. When the government makes a mistake, it affects everyone. Garlin Gilchrist, a blogger with an engineering background who runs New Media for the Center for Community Change discussed the incredible journey that much of this technology has traveled. Andrew Schwartzman, President of the Media Access Project, provides anecdotes of Internet Service Providers blocking customers’ access to various web content. This is a destructive approach, he argues, and calls on the government to take action to ensure the Internet does not slip down a slippery slope of access restrictions.

2:43 PM EDT
The question and comment period has commenced.

3:02 PM EDT
This concludes today’s lively discussion on Speech and Democratic Engagement. Panelists came to the discussion with a number of different view points and offered terrific perspectives on how far, if at all, the FCC should go in taking steps toward preserving the open Internet. Even more intriguing was hearing the stories of the panelists. They noticed an absence in the market, created their obscure website with few resources, and eventually carved out a substantial space for themselves in the ever-growing Internet community. Two other workshops, on “Innovation and Investment” and “Consumers and Transparency,” will take place in the coming weeks.

Live Blogging the Commission Meeting

October 22nd, 2009 by George Krebs


Thank you for joining us today. This morning saw a productive Open Commission Meeting and we are now looking forward to the Rulemaking process that will transpire over the coming months. These discussions will shape the openness of the Internet. Please add your voice as we seek public input. As a reminder, all videos, slides, documents and other resources can be found on our new Open Meeting portal. Please continue to follow our Open Internet efforts and stay up to date on all FCC happenings through

Open Meeting Live Blog

10:05AM EDT
Chairman Julius Genachowski opens the meeting, recognizes a handful of helpful staffers, and outlines the agenda. Today’s Open Commission Meeting will focus on one item. Commissioners will consider a proposed rulemaking on Open Internet.

10:13AM EDT
The presentation begins, “We present to you a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks public input on draft rules to preserve an open internet.” There is good precedent for this movement toward an open internet. “The Commission has considered the issue of Internet openness in a wide variety of contexts and proceedings.” A policy statement released in 2005, several enforcement actions, and a notice of inquiry on broadband industry practices in 2007 are among those steps taken toward the issue.

10:24AM EDT
Specifically, the presenters mention that the FCC previously created four principles regarding the management internet. Today’s Notice will add two more principles to the list and will seek to codify them. The six principles are below:

“Under the draft rules, subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not:
1) prevent any of its users from sending or receiving the lawful content of the user’s choice over the Internet;
2) prevent any of its users from running the lawful applications or using the lawful services of the user’s choice;
3) prevent any of its users from connecting to and using on its network the user’s choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network;
4) deprive any of its users of the user’s entitlement to competition among network providers, application providers, service providers, and content providers.
5) A provider of broadband Internet access service must treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.
6) A provider of broadband Internet access service must disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this rulemaking.”

10:26AM EDT
The Notice will seek comment and input on these principles and their affect on internet services. With the tremendous growth of mobile and wireless broadband enabled devices, there will be a  large question concerning the application of these principles to those devices.
There is no doubt that this is a momentous day for the Commission and the trajectory of the internet. The conclusion of the presentation reflects this. “Today’s Notice is the beginning of the process towards adopting clear, enforceable, and common sense rules of the road that broadband providers and Internet companies of all sizes can build their businesses around.”

10:29AM EDT
Following the presentations, each Commissioner is given a chance to deliver a statement. Chairman Genachowski cedes the microphone to Commissioner Michael Copps and he begins. “This is a truly historic day at the FCC. It is historic because the Commission takes a long stride, perhaps its longest ever, in ensuring a free, open, and dynamic internet. While in one sense today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking marks a natural progression from our adoption of the Internet Policy Statement in 2005, in reality it is the clearest statement yet that we will ensure that the genius of the Internet is not subverted as it leaves its infancy and begins to come of age.”

10:33AM EDT
Commissioner Copps, highlighting the central role that consumers play in shaping the direction of FCC policy, continues. “I have advocated long and hard for the Commission to establish a mechanism to ensure that consumers have continued access to a vibrant, open Internet—an Internet that was born on openness, thrived on openness, and depends on openness to realize its going-forward potential.  This Commission will act, I predict, to maintain that openness. …The principles I pushed for in the Internet Policy Statement four years ago focused on consumer rights.  This is, after all, a consumer protection agency.  While just about everybody gains from the availability of an open Internet, no one gains so much as consumers. …We need to recognize that the gatekeepers of today may not be the gatekeepers of tomorrow.  Our job is not so much to mediate among giants as it is to protect consumers.”

10:42AM EDT
In this next statement, Commissioner Robert McDowell notes that he appreciates the collaboration between the slate of Commissioners but emphasizes that they do not agree on all policy recommendations. He contends that internet providers have taken care of the problems and the hiccups that have arisen.

10:58AM EDT
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn shares her experience running a small newspaper in South Carolina. With the assistance of the internet she may have been able to adequately compete with the larger newspapers and media outlets in the area. The internet is a crucial pillar of our society and our economy that we must protect, she explains in supporting today’s Notice.

11:05AM EDT
Commissioner Meredith Baker also acknowledges the collegiality among the commissioners while noting their differences on some policies. As for the current proposal, she cautions against adding additional rules, saying, “Before imposing new rules, we need to carefully think through all potential unintended consequences that could harm consumers by increasing prices, impeding innovation, eliminating choices, and/or reducing quality of service.” Although she will dissent in the current matter, Commissioner Baker states that she agrees that “it is reasonable to take a step back and ask tough and probing questions about the Internet as it exists today and about where we want it to be tomorrow.” Her reservations aside,  “a complete and accurate understanding of the internet ecosystem” is vital.

11:19AM EDT
In the last statement of the five commissioners, Chairman Genachowski advocates strongly on behalf of the concept of Open Internet and for this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in particular.  This begins with the central idea that “we must promote investment and innovation broadly.” In outlining his beliefs he says, “Government’s role in preserving openness is important but also modest.  It should be no greater than necessary to achieve the core goal of preserving a free and open Internet.” Essentially the goal is to minimize the roll in government, not to enlarge it. Addressing the fears of those who believe this will constitute an overreach, he clarifies:

“Government should promote competition.  It should protect consumers’ right to access the lawful content, applications, and services of their choosing.  It should ensure that there is no central authority preventing people or businesses from communicating over the Internet. …This Commission fully agrees that government must not restrict the free flow of information over the Internet.”

To end the Commission’s Open Meeting the Chairman says, “I am pleased to see leaders outside the Commission working to find common ground on enforceable rules.  Given the importance of an open Internet to prosperity and opportunity for all Americans, our country deserves no less.”

The Chairman motions for a vote and all five commissioners vote in favor of pursuing the Rulemaking . Chairman Genachowski and Commissioners Copps and Clyburn vote yes without qualifications. Commissioners Baker and McDowell “dissent in part, concur in part,” meaning they support the inquiry but not the associated underlying arguments.

11:45AM EDT
With the structured portion of the meeting having come to a close, a press conference will begin shortly.

11:51AM EDT
Chairman Genachowski begins the press conference and is taking questions.

One reporter asks about the connection between the Broadband Plan and Open Internet. “The Broadband process has always assumed…that there needs to be a free and open internet, it needs to be preserved,” the Chairman responds. Though with regards to the overlap between the two, “we’ll be dealing with them in separate proceedings.”

Following another question, the Chairman makes a point that he wishes to emphasize, “There’s nothing in anything we’ve suggested” that would indicate that the FCC will meddle with companies’ delivery of the internet.  “We’re not going to require anyone to come to the FCC and ask permission,” he says. Instead, this Notice is focused on “how we’re going to codify the rules of the road.”

Many of the questions asked of the Chairman seek an answer concerning specific effects of codifying the six open Internet principles. He explains that these cannot be answered now. These issues “will be addressed vigorously” during the rulemaking process, Genachowski replies. Through this process, he assures the assembled reporters, answers will arise in the months to come.