Since September 21, 2009, when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined the steps he believes the FCC should take to preserve an open Internet, debates about network neutrality have intensified.
In 2005, the FCC issued a net neutrality policy which it stated would be used to regulate broadband services. The statement outlines “four principles to encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of public Internet”.
- consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice;
- consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement;
- consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and
- consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
Internet service providers have generally operated in accordance with these principles and net neutrality has not been regulated by law.
Two More Principles
In his September 2009 speech, Chairman Genachowski proposed adopting the initial four principles along with two additional principles:
- broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications;
- broadband providers must be transparent about their network management practices;
Expanded Reach for the Principles
Since the principles were initially proposed, the Internet and the technology used to access the Internet have evolved in ways that could not have been imagined in 2005. Now, users, particularly Latinos and African Americans, are using mobile technologies to get online. The Chairman has stated that net neutrality principles would apply to wireless technologies.
Supporters of the proposed net neutrality principles argue that net neutrality provisions are necessary to prevent telecom practices that would impede or slow consumer access to the Internet depending on which websites or Internet applications they use. In this case, companies would charge more to consumers who wish to use Internet services provided by competing or non-preferred companies. They would also be free to restrict or slow access to these services for consumers who choose not to pay the additional cost.
Stakeholders that oppose expanded net neutrality principles argue that the Internet has flourished because it exists in an unregulated environment. They believe that enacting net neutrality provisions would hinder additional investment and stifle the future growth and development of Internet technologies.
Many parties that have been labeled as ‘opponents of net neutrality’ actually support the original four principles and transparency in network management, but are concerned about the impact of the principles on technologies that are evolving (mobile) and technologies that have yet to be invented.
Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership Perspective
HTTP and its member organizations have been actively engaged in efforts to eliminate a digital divide that is in part responsible for the continued marginalization of the most vulnerable segments of the Latino community. The net neutrality debate is very important to Hispanics / Latinos. The advancement of Latino and other disadvantaged communities in these difficult economic times will depend on greater access to online information, services and applications.
We have observed that current discourse about net neutrality has been dominated by mainstream consumer advocates and the technology and telecommunications policy elite, groups that are least familiar and least equipped to discuss the perspectives of communities on the wrong side of the digital divide. Because of this, HTTP urges the FCC to more proactively incorporate non-traditional perspectives and data as it works create policy that will directly affect broadband deployment and adoption by minority communities.
We ask the FCC to consider and discuss with minority stakeholders how a set of principles that are neutral at face value may have unintended negative consequences for vulnerable populations. When it comes to policy decisions regarding net neutrality, HTTP believes that the future of our communities is at stake as much as the future of the Internet.