Public Knowledge said today that the U.S. economy and society would benefit more from continuing today's open Internet than from having network operators exercise greater control.
In a 58-page paper, “Good Fences Make Bad Broadband: Preserving the Internet Through Net Neutrality,” Public Knowledge said, “In short, open broadband networks are vitally important to our society, our future economic growth, our high-tech manufacturing sector, and our First Amendment rights to information free of censorship and control. Even if an openness policy imposes some slight burden on network operators, these microeconomic concerns pale in comparison to the macroeconomic benefits of maintaining an open Internet to the society and the economy at large.”
The paper makes the case for an enforceable Net Neutrality principle, responds to arguments made by network operators against Net Neutrality rules and proposes some model legislative language. It also includes a reference section that summarizes and compares the position of the parties involved in the debate.
PK President Gigi B. Sohn said, “While we think an enforceable rule is necessary for an open Internet, we don't think a heavy regulatory structure is necessary. A straightforward rule, which includes a statement of network operators' obligations to carry traffic on a non-discriminatory basis, backed up by an efficient complaint process at the FCC, should suffice.” Network operators would have to prove, within a brief period of time, that any discrimination is justified.
The non-discrimination principles proposed by PK would also require that, if the network operator offers different levels of access connections at different prices, it must offer the same levels of access equally to all users. The paper doesn't suggest that the FCC reinstate the common carrier regulatory regime; that regime included over 90 pages of detailed statutory provisions in the Communications Act and called for extensive FCC rules.
The paper also responds to the current objections made by network operators to an enforceable net neutrality principle. Sohn added, “What I find striking is at the same time the network operators' Washington representatives make that argument, their top executives are saying that they want to, and will discriminate. The paper documents subscriber agreements that prohibit the use of certain applications, exclusive bundling deals and limitations on the ability to attach consumer equipment. And these are only the instances we know about.”
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