A national broadband plan should affirm and endorse the characteristics and policy choices that have been crucial to the Internet’s success. Unlike other media platforms, the Internet gives users broad control over what they will see and hear. It can accommodate an essentially unlimited number of speakers. Its open technical standards enable widespread and unsupervised innovation. It is interoperable and global. It has no central gatekeepers controlling what or who gets on the network. To preserve these essential characteristics, a national broadband plan should embrace the key policies that have fostered them:
- Affording Internet communications the highest level of free speech protection;
- Avoiding government mandates dictating or interfering with technology design;
- Protecting intermediaries such as Web sites, Web hosting services, and Internet service providers against liability for content created by users; and
- Preventing discrimination by network operators against particular content, users, or devices.
A national broadband plan also should call for new policy initiatives to help spur the Internet’s future growth. In particular:
- Stronger safeguards are needed to protect against discrimination that could undermine the Internet’s openness. The plan should call for new legislation and the addition of a nondiscrimination principle to the Commission’s broadband Policy Statement, among other steps.
- Stronger privacy standards, including national consumer privacy legislation, would help promote public confidence in the Internet as a platform for speech and commerce.
- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act should be updated so that Internet communications and “cloud computing” enjoy an appropriate legal framework concerning government surveillance.
- Federal agencies should proactively release more government data online, expand their use of interactive tools, and both stream and archive video of public government meetings.
- Efforts to protect children online should focus on educational initiatives and parental empowerment.
- Efforts to address copyright and cybersecurity protection must take care to treat online free expression, user empowerment, and privacy as core goals in developing policy.
Regarding scope and process, the Commission’s plan should expressly target broadband used to provide Internet service. Other types of high-speed data transmission could be considered “broadband,” but should not be the focus of the plan. Finally, the Commission should commit to publish and seek comment on a tentative version of a plan before it finalizes its report. Initial input on the wide-ranging questions set forth in the NOI is no substitute for input on actual elements of a proposed plan.