Former FCC Chairman Powell, Net Neutrality, and the 4 Internet Freedoms

In light of the recent attack on internet freedom and net neutrality, I'd like to provide the text of a speech gave by the former chairman of the FCC Michael Powell. Powell, a Republican appointed to the chairmanship by George W. Bush, presents a strong case for keeping the internet an open and free- retaining its place as a dynamic source of information, social connections, and knowledge. 

The recent repeal of net neutrality, spearheaded by the current chair Ajit Pai, means that internet providers can now limit access to certain websites, which could usher in an era of tiered payment systems for use of different websites, much like cable television packages. However, the chief danger is not one of money and payment (although important) but of censorship & information control. 

Case in point: Imagine Verizon is your internet provider. Verizon does not have to provide you with a neutral, open portal to the world of information. It can limit what you see. For example, if you were conducting a google search for "best cell phone plans," Verizon might be the only option that comes up! You'd be directed to articles that tout the virtues of Verizon's wireless coverage. Point is, now any mega-corporation can, theoretically, control the flow of information to their benefit- a scary proposition that could move beyond just a simple search for cell phone plans. No wonder corporations like Verizon have been lobbying the FCC to eliminate net neutrality for years. Interestingly enough, the current chair of the FCC, Mr, Pai, used to work for Verizon. He also spoke at an event at Verizon shortly before the doomed vote. I guess he's part of the swamp that hasn't drained yet. Someone call a plumber. 

In the words of Outkast- "conspiracy theory? You be the judge. Nobody slow". 

Former FCC Chair Michael Powell's 4 Internet Freedoms:
Freedom to Access Content. First, consumers should have access to their choice of legal content. Consumers have come to expect to be able to go where they want on high-speed connections, and those who have migrated from dial-up would presumably object to paying a premium for broadband if certain content were blocked. Thus, I challenge all facets of the industry to commit to allowing consumers to reach the content of their choice. I recognize that network operators have a legitimate need to manage their networks and ensure a quality experience, thus reasonable limits sometimes must be placed in service contracts. Such restraints, however, should be clearly spelled out and should be as minimal as necessary.

Freedom to Use Applications. Second, consumers should be able to run applications of their choice. As with access to content, consumers have come to expect that they can generally run whatever applications they want. Again, such applications are critical to continuing the digital broadband migration because they can drive the demand that fuels deployment. Applications developers must remain confident that their products will continue to work without interference from other companies. No one can know for sure which “killer” applications will emerge to drive deployment of the next generation high-speed technologies. Thus, I challenge all facets of the industry to let the market work and allow consumers to run applications unless they exceed service plan limitations or harm the provider’s network.

Freedom to Attach Personal Devices. Third, consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes. Because devices give consumers more choice, value and personalization with respect to how they use their high-speed connections, they are critical to the future of broadband. Thus, I challenge all facets of the industry to permit consumers to attach any devices they choose to their broadband connection, so long as the devices operate within service plan limitations and do not harm the provider’s network or enable theft of service.

Freedom to Obtain Service Plan Information. Fourth, consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans. Simply put, such information is necessary to ensure that the market is working. Providers have every right to offer a variety of service tiers with varying bandwidth and feature options. Consumers need to know about these choices as well as whether and how their service plans protect them against spam, spyware and other potential invasions of privacy.

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