Genachowski: Internet principles aren’t rules

by on September 21, 2009 · 13 comments

The FCC announced today that it will consider adopting net neutrality rules. The announcement comes in a speech by Chairman Julies Genachowski, which you can read here and watch here. Genachowski says,

To date, the Federal Communications Commission has addressed these issues by announcing four Internet principles that guide our case-by-case enforcement of the communications laws. … The principles were initially articulated by Chairman Michael Powell in 2004 as the “Four Freedoms,” and later endorsed in a unanimous 2005 policy statement[.] … Today, I propose that the FCC adopt the existing principles as Commission rules, along with two additional principles that reflect the evolution of the Internet and that are essential to ensuring its continued openness.

By suggesting that they must be codified, Genachowski is implicitly (if not explicitly) conceding that the FCC’s Internet principles are a mere policy statement and not a binding and enforceable rule. I’ve explained why this is the case previously. So, someone should call the D.C. Circuit, considering the Comcast case, and let them know their job just got a lot easier.

Second, Genachowski gives “limited competition” as a reason to consider regulation. However, the best available data from the FCC show that 98% of zip codes have 2 or more broadband providers, 88% of zip codes have 4 or more broadband providers, and 77% of zip codes have 5 or more broadband providers. That said, some have questioned whether the FCC’s data are accurate, and the FCC’s next broadband report is supposed to have data gathered at the census tract level for a more detailed set of speed categories. So, the FCC is proposing a regulation before it has completed an ongoing study to discover whether there is a real problem. It’s almost as if Kevin Martin is still running the place.

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