A few weeks ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began soliciting public input on proposed rules to preserve the open Internet for all Americans. The past few weeks have also been busy for the open Internet abroad . . . .
The Freedom To Innovate in Canada
On October 21, 2009, the FCC’s Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, issued new rules of the road to “balance the freedom of Canadians to use the Internet for various purposes with the legitimate interests of [Internet service providers] to manage the traffic thus generated on their networks.” The Canadian policymakers noted that “innovation is at the heart of the Internet” and that the Internet “has given people the freedom to innovate without permission.”
In a process similar to the FCC’s, the Canadian Commission sought public input on how to preserve the open Internet and received thousands of comments over several months. The resulting framework seeks to minimize discrimination in traffic-handling by Internet service providers, and emphasizes the importance of transparency. Internet service providers must disclose restrictive traffic management practices at least 30 days before implementation so that consumers can “make informed decisions about the Internet services they purchase and use,”
Disclosure to Consumers in Europe
Across the ocean, European policy makers are also grappling with how to keep the Internet free and open. In early November, the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement on open Internet measures. Although the final text of the agreement has not been released publicly, a press release reports that the compromise requires providers to disclose traffic management techniques and their impact on service quality, as well as any other limitations on Internet service, such as bandwidth caps or available connection speed. The rules also reportedly give telecommunications authorities the power to set minimum quality levels for network transmission services. The agreement will go to a final vote later this month.
Openness in Beirut
Finally, telecommunications policymakers from around the world met in Beirut last week to share ideas at the International Telecommunication Union Global Symposium for Regulators. The Chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, spoke to the forum about the FCC’s open Internet proceeding. He explained that the “open, decentralized architecture of the Internet has been the key to its success,” and that the FCC’s proceeding “is not about government regulation of the Internet”: “It’s about ensuring that no one, not the government and not companies that provide Internet access, restricts the free flow of lawful information and services over the Internet. Our goals are to ensure that consumers and the market can pick winners and losers; to promote competition; and to promote continued investment and innovation as our Internet future unfolds.”
What are your thoughts about all this?