Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

FCC Adopts Its Fighting Stance: Net Neutrality Is the Future


We've been waiting for this, given many teasing leaks this week, but now it's here: The FCC, via its chairman Julius Genachowsky, has officially staked its claim on the future of the Webs. Net Neutrality all the way.

Genachowski made a speech concerning the matter, and it's a lengthy high-minded affair. We've boiled it down to its simplest essence to make the word cloud up there (more on this later) but Genachowski also thoughtfully released a blog posting clarifying the FCC's position. In it he simplifies the arguments about Net Neutrality down to three key points:

1. "Americans have the freedom to access lawful content on the Internet, without discrimination." Meaning "no one should be able to tell you what you can or can't do" from a company right up to government level, as long as what you're doing is legal.

2. "You have a right to basic information about your broadband service." The FCC shows by this that it's going to get strict with ISPs about making it clear to consumers exactly what they're paying for, which makes it easier to choose between competitors.

3. "The Internet will remain a level playing field." People must be able to exercise free speech, shop, sell products or services and innovate "without permission from a corporation" or a corporate gatekeeper "prioritizing access to one person's content over another."

That's pretty damn straightforward. Say what you will about who has a right to make decisions like this, and listen if you will to the arguments of ISPs that say traffic-shaping is an absolute must if the Net is to continue to grow, placing a strain on their resources: Genachowski has simplified the debate right down to its core principles here.

Interesting then that in his speech the words "Net Neutrality" didn't pop up. "Internet" and "broadband" lead the pack of words, as you may expect. "Networks," and "openness" are words he frequently used, too—to define the importance of a neutral net to "consumers" and "companies." It's all about boosting "investment" and "innovation."

Of course, the fact that the FCC is to some extent toothless to actually regulate any of this is plain for all to see here: The fact that this is a mere "framework" and has only been "proposed" by the FCC (as opposed to a "law" that's been "enacted") stands out a mile with the size of those particular words.

Still, it's a bold first move. Expect a ton of informed, biased, intelligent and, alternatively, totally daft debate about this as other governmental figures and bodies, corporations and pundits step in with their responses over the next week or so.

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.