Telecom giants assumed that new Federal Communications Committee chairman Julius Genachowski would be an ally in fights with "net neutrality" advocates, but today he dealt them a heavy blow. Genachowski vowed to make six principles of "net neutrality" into laws, preventing Internet providers from limiting, blocking or restricting access to certain information online.
Consumer groups, tech bloggers and progressives are hailing the move as a first step in the march toward Web freedoms. Broadband providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast counter that net neutrality will undermine investment in technology and allow heavy users to siphon off bandwidth from everyone else. Others see a bright future for innovation, as the playing field is leveled for entrepreneurs.
- Victory for Entrepreneurs and Consumers, says David Coursey at PC World. Coursey explains that the laws will stop telecom companies from controlling the evolution of the Web. "The Internet is successful because it has (mostly) been an open platform, available to all developers and technologies. The FCC is taking steps to make sure openness continues and yesterday's telecom giants will not have a veto over the Internet's future."
- Solving a Problem That Doesn't Exist, suggests David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast's broadband division. "The Internet in America has been a phenomenal success that has spawned technological and business innovation unmatched anywhere in the world. So it's still fair to ask whether increased regulation of the Internet is a solution in search of a problem."
- A Case Study of Progressive Technology Mobilization, says Nancy Scola at TechPresident. "Network neutrality has gone from an esoteric intra-industry battle to the cornerstone of what progressive technology policy looks like...As a question of technology, 'net neutrality' has never been as black and white as advocates have sold it. But the netroots and allies have done a remarkable job of turning it into a political issue."
- A Revolution for Mobile Devices, gushes Kevin C. Tofel at jkOnTheRun, a blog about mobile devices. He draws up a list of remarkable changes that the laws could usher in, from causing "the market for unlocked phones" to explode, to making some popular services such as texting "reduced in price or be free."
- Starting a Fight, says Ryan Singel at Wired. He explains that the rule-making process will begin in November, and that the FCC will be besieged by appeals from both neutrality advocates and industry defenders. Those opposed to the rules believe they will hamper engineers from "tinker[ing] with traffic in order to stop spam and viruses, as well as to keep the system running in times of peak traffic." Pro-neutrality consumer groups, meanwhile, are ramping up efforts to ensure the rules are made into law.