FCC Chairman Outlines Expansive Vision for Open and Innovative Internet

Washington, D.C. — FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s speech at the Brookings Institution this morning makes clear that he understands and appreciates what makes the Internet special. His vision of an open Internet that preserves the "freedom to innovate without permission" is one that CDT shares and that all Internet users and innovators should vigorously support. At the same time, he sensibly pledged to keep his effort narrowly targeted on "companies that control access to the Internet" and to "do as much as we need, and no more."

"The Chairman understands that the genius of the Internet is its open platform," said CDT President Leslie Harris. "By putting Internet neutrality on the front burner of communications policy he is taking a bold step to make sure the Internet stays open, innovative and free from gatekeepers."

The Chairman is proposing to address two key areas where the FCC’s 2005 Policy Statement falls short, and where CDT has long urged action: nondiscrimination and transparency. The Chairman is also right to say that the method of accessing the Internet shouldn’t matter. For example, with each passing day, more and more people will be accessing the Internet via mobile wireless devices. The move to wireless raises some tricky issues, but it cannot justify abandoning the characteristics that have made the Internet so successful. Users should not be forced to accept a hobbled Internet in order to get it wirelessly.

"CDT’s hope is that the launch of the FCC process will encourage all parties to move beyond the rhetoric, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on developing a careful policy approach," said CDT Senior Policy Counsel David Sohn. There are some difficult questions to work through; for example, the Chairman recognized that rules should enable managed services to coexist with more open Internet offerings. Finding the right policy on these matters is challenging. But real progress should be possible if everyone is willing to approach the issue from a practical and solutions-oriented standpoint. CDT welcomes today’s announcement for its potential to kick-start that discussion.

Ideally, the launch of FCC proceedings would prompt Congress to take up the matter too. CDT has long said that FCC activity on Internet neutrality would benefit from clear congressional guidance, authorization, and limits, so that the FCC’s task and regulatory authority are not open-ended.

At bottom, this issue is about the Internet’s future. CDT is pleased that the new FCC Chairman so clearly understands the stakes, and CDT looks forward to working with the FCC, Congress, and all the various interested parties to find practical ways to make sure the Internet of the future remains as open and innovative as the one we enjoy today.