Friday, October 12, 2007

"Net Freedom"

Personal computing devices are at the leading edge of this revolution in consumer empowerment.
These devices exploit rapid innovation in silicon, software and storage, often combined with speedy Internet connections.
But the possibilities for consumer empowerment extend beyond devices. These possibilities arise from the Internet’s open architecture, which allows consumers to freely interact with anyone around the globe.
Musicians and writers, who could never have landed a contract with a major record label or publisher, can find - or create - audiences for their work. Small town radio stations can reach people who have moved to the big city. E-Bay is another good example: gone are the days when each of us had only a small group of potential buyers for what we think is junk in our garages.
Somewhere, in the next state or the next continent, there are people who may
very well want to buy that “junk” and pay us more than we ever dreamed for it.
The open internet has opened markets beyond the traditional geographic limitations.
Companies are eager to feed consumer hunger for these Internet-related goodies.
Many are racing to develop content, applications and devices they hope will entice more and more consumers to abandon dial-up and slower broadband Internet access in favor of faster broadband.
But first, these companies must be able to reach broadband consumers.
Thus, usage and deployment of high-speed Internet depends on access to and use of content, applications and devices.
Giving broadband consumers the access they want is not a matter of charity but simply of good business.
Network owners, ISPs, equipment makers, content and applications developers all benefit when consumers are empowered to get and do what they want.

This is why ensuring that consumers can obtain and use the content, applications and devices they want – is critical to unlocking the vast potential of the broadband Internet.
Today, broadband consumers generally enjoy such internet freedom. They can access and use the content, applications and devices of their choice.
This easy access includes some of the most promising new uses of broadband.
For example, the head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association recently stated that cable modem providers would not block traffic from competing Internet voice providers.
Many, if not most, in the industry recognize that providing such access and information is in their own self-interest, particularly as infrastructure providers
and developers struggle to discover valuable uses that will enable them to recoup their substantial investments in high-speed Internet technologies.

Consumer Are Entitled to “Internet Freedom”
As we continue to promote competition among high-speed platforms, we must preserve the freedom of use broadband consumers have come to expect.
Thus, I challenge the broadband network industry to preserve the following “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.

Key Benefits of Preserving “Internet Freedom”
Numerous benefits will follow if the industry continues to preserve “Net Freedom.” Preserving “Net Freedom” will preserve consumers’ freedom to access and use whatever content, applications and devices they choose based on the service plan they choose.
It will promote comparison shopping among the growing number of providers by making it easier for consumers to obtain access to meaningful information about the services and technical capabilities they rely on to access and use the Internet.

Internet Freedom also promotes innovation by giving developers and service providers confidence that they can develop broadband applications that reach consumers and run as designed.
Internet voice applications are a notable example that has been grabbing headlines recently.
Net Freedom will ensure that consumers will continue to be able to choose whatever
Internet voice service that will function over their high-speed Internet connection.
Preserving “Net Freedom” also will serve as an important “insurance policy” against the potential rise of abusive market power by vertically-integrated broadband providers.
And, if we secure a reasonable balance between the needs of network providers and internet freedom, consumers will reap the benefits of broadband without intrusive regulation, while preserving industry’s incentives to deploy more high-speed broadband platforms.

“Net Freedom” is intended to give broadband consumers the choices, value and personalization they have come to expect.
Thus, consumers are the ultimate judges of whether the industry is successfully preserving “Net Freedom,” or falling short.

Liberally taken from:
Michael K. Powell
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
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