Julius Genachowski, current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is under consideration to become the Obama administrationâs new secretary of Commerce, Washington blog The Hill reports.
Genachowski presided over the Commissionâs contentious adoption of net neutrality rules in December. Both the substance of those rules and the FCCâs authority to adopt them is now being challenged in courts as well as in Congress.
The Hill, citing unnamed tech-industry sources, reports that Genachowski is on a short-list of candidates to succeed current Commerce secretary Gary Locke, whom President Obama plans to name as U.S. ambassador to China.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski has announced his intention to submit a net neutrality proposal for a vote before the agencyâs five-person board at its Dec. 21 meeting.
The proposed rules, Genachowski said in a statement, are designed to guard against broadband service providers from restricting the online activities of their customers. âConsumers and innovators have a right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic â to go where they want and say what they want online, and to use the devices of their choice,â he said. âThus, the proposed framework would prohibit the blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network.â
The plan does not have the unanimous endorsement of the Commission. âWe do not have authority to act,â says Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. âThe new majority of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has asked the Commission not to circulate this Order, and a clear majority of all Members of Congress has expressed concern with our Internet policies.â
More details on the plan at The Wall Street Journal.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says that with a House proposal on net neutrality failing to win bipartisan support, the legislation will not be going forward.
While the representative, who chairs the Houseâs Energy and Commerce Committee, says that legislation may still be introduced after the November elections, he also urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reassert its regulatory authority over the Internet service providers.
âIf our efforts to find bipartisan consensus fail,â Waxman says, âthe FCC should move forward under Title IIâ of the Communications Act, under which Congress confers authority to the FCC. âThe bottom line is that we must protect the open Internet. If Congress canât act, the FCC must,â Waxman says.
But the FCCâs power to regulate broadband access has been questioned. As the Washington Post notes, a federal court held in April that the agency exceeded its authority when it censured Comcast for placing Internet access limits on some of its customers.
More analysis on the issue at the Wrap.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and 12 other music industry trade groups have sent an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, seeking more information on how the companyâs joint proposal with Verizon for an open-Internet framework would accommodate digital content protection efforts.
âThe music community we represent believes it is vital that any Internet policy initiative permit and encourage ISPs and other intermediaries to take measures to deter unlawful activity such as copyright infringement and child pornography,â the letter reads (via Digital Media Wire). The letter also urges for the tech companies to honor a distinction between âlawful and unlawful activityâ online.
Backstory and analysis at Ars Technica.
Time Warner Cableâs Britt: New Net Neutrality Regulations Would Risk âUnintended Consequencesâ
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Time Warner Cable chief executive Glenn Britt says that new regulations for Internet service providers could carry âunintended consequencesâ if they wind up being outmoded by the ever-competitive broadband marketplace.
On the Google-Verizon policy proposal, which calls for an exception to open-Internet principles for new services and mobile/wireless networks, Britt offers: âVirtual private networks already exist. [Critics of the Google-Verizon proposal] are ignoring the fact that these services have been in place for many years. If there were a prohibition against that, then corporations couldnât do business the way they do it today internally. If IBM wants to pay me to lay a cable from one place to another using Internet technology, should that be prohibited?â
In proposing that the wireless broadband space remain free from government net neutrality regulations, Google acknowledges that it has shifted from its previous position. However, itâs all âin the spirit of compromise,â the company says in a follow-up corporate post.
Googleâs chief Washington counsel, Richard Whitt, cites three factors driving the companyâs strategic shift. âFirst,â he says, âthe wireless market is more competitive than the wireline market, given that consumers typically have more than just two providers to choose from. Second, because wireless networks employ airwaves, rather than wires, and share constrained capacity among many users, these carriers need to manage their networks more actively. Third, network and device openness is now beginning to take off as a significant business model in this space.â
More on Googleâs previous stance â and on why it wants the proposal considered by Congress instead of the Federal Communications Commission â at Ars Technica.
Google and Verizon are receiving pushback from many media companies, but praise from some, on their proposal to keep mobile networks and the development of ânew entertainment and gaming optionsâ (among other services) outside the governmentâs net neutrality framework.
Among those criticizing the proposal is Facebook, which advocates the application of open Internet rules to mobile networks (via the Wall Street Journal). IAC chief Barry Diller, meanwhile, called the proposal a âsham,â according to the New York Times.
Yet some agree with the proposalâs call for the government to allow broadband providers room to develop new products, such as a premium tier for content access. Danny Stein, the chairman of eMusic, tells the New York Times that while Internet access should remain open and neutral, âthat doesnât mean there canât be premium options to appeal to some amazing consumer experience outside of the garden of net neutrality.â
âWe want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation,â the chief executives of Google and Verizon state in a joint proposal, announced yesterday, for how the U.S. government should regulate Internet services. To this end, the two companies press for broadband providersâ right to develop ânew entertainment and gaming options,â among other new products, that are separate from traditional Internet access and hence not subject to the same government regulations.
Google and Verizon stress that under their proposal, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would monitor the development of these new online services, to ensure that âthey donât interfere with the continued development of Internet access.â
But the proposal has been met with outcry from media watchdog groups, along with a terse response from the FCC.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, SVP and policy director at advocacy group Media Access Project, sees in the new-services proposal potential for a loophole that âmay make some services unaffordable for consumers and access to those services unavailable to new start-upsâ (in an interview with the New York Times).
The FCC, for its part, bridles at the corporationsâ attempt to redefine the governmentâs role in net neutrality.
âSome will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. Thatâs one of its many problems,â FCC Commissioner Michael Copps says in a statement (.pdf). âIt is time to move a decision forward â a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever.â
Rival tech giants including AT&T, Comcast, Google, Microsoft, and Verizon announced earlier this week that they are joining together under the newly formed Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG) to âdevelop consensus on broadband network management practices or other related technical issues that can affect usersâ Internet experience.â Chairing the group is a former chief technologist of the Federal Communications Commission. CNET reports that the formation of the group signals a political dĂ©tente between the companies over net neutrality, as well as a bypassing of Washington regulators. By CNET
A U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission exceeded its authority when it censured Comcast for restricting Internet access to certain of its file-sharing customers. In 2008 the FCC had ordered Comcast to stop blocking subscriber access to BitTorrent sites.
The new court ruling has Democrats in Congress mulling the introduction of new legislation that would expressly empower the FCC to regulate Internet service providers. By The Wall Street Journal
The European Commission has pledged to make sure a global treaty known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement will not force countries to disconnect people for unlawfully downloading copyrighted music, movies, and other material. The statement from the office of trade commissioner Karel de Gucht is the strongest comment on the treaty since the reorganized European Commission emerged in February. By CNET
In recent comments to the Federal Communications Commission, Netflix said the âmanaged servicesâ portion of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowskiâs open-Internet rules could be a loophole for the biggest Internet service providers to gain unfair advantage for their own applications over those of competitors. âIf left unchecked, the âmanaged servicesâ category could engulf the Commissionâs open Internet policies altogether. As such, the Commission must carefully circumscribe the network operatorsâ ability to exempt certain services from the openness rules by classifying them as managed services,â Netflix wrote in its filing. By The Washington Post
âThe proposed FCC net neutrality principles include a loophole for âreasonable network management,ââ points out the Electronic Frontier Foundationâs Fred von Lohmann. According to the legal analyst, the network management rules mean âthat so long as your ISP claims that itâs trying to prevent copyright infringement, itâs exempted from the net neutrality principles and can interfere with your ability to access lawful content, use lawful devices, run lawful applications, or access lawful services.â By EFF.org
The Motion Picture Association of America and a collection of major Hollywood guilds both issued separate statements of tentative support for proposed rules to ensure net neutrality on Thursday. As the entertainment organizations encouraged a robust Internet, they cautioned that it cannot come at the expense of the fight against content piracy. By TheWrap
In comments filed last week with the Federal Communications Commission, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) looks for Congress to âencourage ISPs to work with the creative community to implement the best available, commercially practicable policies and technological solutions to diminish the theft and unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials online.â The full text PDF of the MPAAâs comments is here. Motion Picture Association of America
A leading academic on network economics argues that net neutrality is a good thing, but ISPs arenât the only potential gatekeepers online. âSearch neutralityâ might well be needed next. By Ars Technica
As the Federal Communications Commission votes unanimously to begin the process of creating open Internet regulation, Congress gets ready to join the debate. By CNET