Whatever one’s perspective, everyone involved in our industry knows how long the road to the FCC’s current proceeding on an open Internet has been. Today, I sent a letter to the FCC, which is similar to a filing I made last month. These letters, which build on the work and thoughts of others, outline a way forward – a middle ground that will accomplish the President’s, the Congress’, and the Commission’s goal of an open and universally available Internet.
Public policy often works best when it’s based on what has come before. In this area, we have a good starting point: the FCC’s existing Internet Policy Statement. The next building block on the way forward is a very thoughtful letter that Senator Olympia Snowe sent to the FCC on October 22. She focused on maintaining today’s “openness and freedom” for users while ensuring that government doesn’t inadvertently undermine the efforts to achieve affordable, ubiquitous broadband.
This same focus also lies at the heart of the statement titled “Finding Common Ground on an Open Internet,” jointly posted by Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Wireless, and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, on October 21, 2009. Those companies, in our view, avoid embracing a strict nondiscrimination standard and instead focus on forms of discrimination that are unreasonable or anticompetitive.
Taken together, these three documents – the FCC’s own Internet Policy Statement, Senator Snowe’s letter, and the Verizon Wireless-Google statement – offer a way forward that will balance important policy goals to the benefit of consumers, including those who do not yet have access to the broadband they need. Other voices, including Amazon’s Paul Misener, have suggested a similar approach. The key is this—by protecting consumers and Internet competition through a “harm standard”, the FCC can focus on the impact of any particular practice and thereby avoid preemptive regulations that could prohibit services and innovations no one can yet envision.
These building blocks can provide a solid foundation upon which the FCC’s proposal to establish a Technical Advisory Process can flourish. It’s a useful, forward-looking approach to policymaking, and we commend Chairman Genachowski for it. It’s a way to get the network engineers and the software application developers talking to one another, building greater trust, and addressing potential concerns before lawyers get involved, which we all know leads to just one outcome…exorbitant billable hours. Who can disagree that the best outcome on net neutrality is a process where problems are resolved amicably before anyone has the need to file an FCC complaint?