Net neutrality was in the news quite a bit in 2007-2008. A neutral network is one that is free of restrictions on content, sites, or platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and on the modes of communication allowed.
In what is very good news for the future of open access to the Internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has posted a statement on Broadband.gov (cross-posted on Whitehouse.gov and Huffington Post) entitled, The Open Internet: Preserving the Freedom to Innovate. In it, he suggests that the role of the FCC is be the “smart cop on the beat” in supporting free and open access to the Internet. To this end, he proposes two new FCC rules:
The first says broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. The second says broadband providers must be transparent about their network management practices. These principles would apply to the Internet however it is accessed, though how they apply may differ depending on the access platform or technology used. Of course, network operators will be permitted to implement reasonable network management practices to address issues such as spam, address copyright infringement, and otherwise ensure a safe and secure network for all users.
I also proposed that the FCC formally enshrine the four pre-existing agency policies that say 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.
Chairman Genachowski believes that these rules are necessary to prevent the recurrence of previous abuses:
We’ve already seen some clear examples of deviations from the Internet’s historic openness. We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen one service provider deny users access to political content.
The FCC has also created a new site, Openinternet.gov, as a place to participate in discussions about a free and open Internet. I plan to spend some time checking it out and I hope you will too.