Here Comes Net Neutrality

The FCC voted this morning to move ahead with a discussion of Chairman Julius Genachowski's new rules to protect net neutrality.  Generally, the corporate battle lines are drawn between the service providers (especially AT&T) who oppose the new rules, and online services (e.g. Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook), who support them. 

Net NeutralityThe principles of net neutrality are, in their essence, intended to keep the internet free and open, and prevent service providers from owning the network. Specifically, the rules will try to head off efforts by service providers to treat certain content or devices preferentially, whether by speeding up service for sites that pay a fee, or blocking services competitive with their own.  The service providers counter with the argument that it hardly makes sense to legislate against a problem that isn't a problem-- aside from some black hat activity by Comcast, there hasn't been much bad stuff going on that would seem to necessitate the new rules.

Chairman Genachowski has coupled this new initiative with a commitment to make the FCC a more open institution: He's published a draft of his proposed rules, and he's keeping the period for comments open longer than usual. I suspect that between now and January 14, when the comment period ends, we'll move toward a middle ground that is comfortable for most parties involved. Even though Verizon, as a service provider, is opposed to the rules, Verizon Wireless and Google found common ground, and their two CEOs released a joint statement in support of light-touch regulation.

Everyone seems to agree with the concept that the internet should be open, and nobody wants any "walled gardens." Still, it will be important not to stifle innovation with rules that restrict service providers from, well, providing good service. Here's to a vigorous debate!