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 FCC.gov/Connect.
Open Meeting Live Blog
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the structured portion of the meeting having come to a close, a press conference will begin shortly.
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.