FCC Chief Says Broadband Key to Economic Success, Defends Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski offers his views on the role of government in nurturing the broadband ecosystem, what he sees as a critical ingredient to economic success. He also defends net neutrality and government's role in preserving and promoting free markets.

By Kenneth Corbin
Tue, September 25, 2012

CIO — The country's top communications regulator Tuesday made the case that high-speed, ubiquitous broadband is an essential ingredient for robust economic growth, arguing forcefully that the government has a role to play in facilitating infrastructure expansion and fostering competition.

FCC Net Neutrality
That includes the controversial net neutrality order that a divided Federal Communications Commission passed two years ago, which Chairman Julius Genachowski praised as a "commonsense" policy that has demonstrated the merits of a "light-touch" regulatory approach, preserving fairness in the market without stifling investment and innovation.

"We need to preserve open platforms. It's the Internet's openness and freedom, the ability to speak, innovate and engage in commerce and free enterprise without having to ask for anyone's permission that's enabled its unparalleled success. It's why we adopted commonsense rules of the road to preserve a free and open Internet, and to foster the virtuous cycle of massive investment in both edge and the core of broadband networks," Genachowski said.

"These rules," he continued said, "have increased certainty and predictability for innovators and investors throughout the space."

Of course, critics of the 2010 order -- and there are many -- contend that the FCC overstepped its authority with prescriptive regulations that shackle Internet service providers with a burdensome new set of network-management restrictions. And opponents would be quick to challenge Genachowski's assertion that the net neutrality order has propelled investment in network infrastructure. Verizon and MetroPCS are challenging the rules in court.

The FCC's rules are poised to go through another test, with public-interest groups planning to bring a formal complaint before the commission challenging AT&T's move to block the popular FaceTime videoconferencing app for users who don't subscribe to a Mobile Share plan.

Genachowski, speaking at the Washington office of Vox Media, declined to comment directly on the AT&T dustup save to say that it highlights the original rationale for the net neutrality order.

"We're going to continue to have disputes and issues that arise under [the] open Internet framework. This is one that could very well come before us in a formal way, so I shouldn't comment on it specifically," he said, expressing his preference that industry players resolve such disputes through multi-stakeholder forums common to the evolution of the Internet. But when positions are intractable, he said, the FCC needs to step in and weigh the facts to determine if a violation took place.

"We adopted the open Internet rules because that doesn't always lead to success. And sometimes good faith efforts don't resolve things," he said.

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