Today FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement that articulated a new jurisdictional approach, based on Title II of the Communications Act, to realize the open Internet principles commonly known as net neutrality. By addressing the common carrier aspect of broadband services, the proposal seeks to limit regulatory reach by focusing on the transmission component. The essence of a common carrier is that they provide data transport, unaltered, and without discrimination, irrespective of its type or origin. The narrowly tailored approach is intended to address the fears and concerns held by many, ourselves included, that the FCC would acquire authority to regulate the Internet – which few think is good idea.
While fights over jurisdictional basis will provide ample material for debate and discussion, what’s most important is that the open Internet principles are adopted. An open Internet is essential to the continued innovation, growth, and entrepreneurship that has changed our lives and created a host of new opportunities.
Let’s not forget, the Internet is young. For example, it’s been roughly 7,000 days since the announcement of the world wide web. Who would have predicted its impact on our lives in this short period? Companies like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook didn’t even exist 2,200 days ago. There is no dispute that the web has facilitated profound social, economic, and even political change all around the world. Even notions that were once new like “ecommerce” have faded away, as now, nearly all forms of commerce touch upon or utilize the Internet. Remember when we even wondered whether people would shop online? A 2009 study by Professor John Quelch published in the Harvard Business Review estimated that the web accounted for $85 billion in annual retail transactions.
Openness is the quintessential quality of the Internet upon which all of these developments are founded. Given our experience in this short time, what the next 7,000 days will look like is no doubt uncertain. What is certain, however, is that if we fail to preserve and protect the open Internet, we risk losing the full promise of the web. That’s a risk not worth taking, especially in light of what we’ve seen so far.
We commend the Commission for its efforts to strike the proper balance of preservation without over-reaching. What Chairman Genachowski has proposed demonstrates exceptional awareness of the importance of preserving key principles of Internet openness without wholesale over-regulation.