FCC needs fifth net neutrality principle

06 Apr FCC needs fifth net neutrality principle

Ars Technica, By Matthew Lasar, April 6, 2009

Does temporary FCC boss Michael Copps’ proposed fifth Internet non-discrimination principle have a future? Ars takes a look at its past. Interim Federal Communications Commission chair Michael Copps has just called for a fifth Internet non-discrimination principle that would be added to the existing four. He told a Friday morning breakfast audience at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s Cable Show in Washington, DC that the time has (almost) come to beef up the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement. After his commentary, Copps told press that the agency should wait to act on this matter until its next permanent chair arrives—he most likely being White House nominee Julius Genachowski. No messing around – What is this fifth principle? After reading various Coppsian manifestos over the last three years, the concept seems to boil down to a formal warning that if ISPs block, throttle, hobble, molest, unfairly prioritize, too deeply packet inspect, or otherwise selectively interfere with protocols or devices on the Internet, the Commission will go into clobbering mode pretty darned quick. “If everyone knew the FCC was on the job,” Copps darkly warned at an April 2008 Stanford University hearing on network management practices, “that we had forthrightly staked out our principles, that everyone knew we would deal with any and all complaints that came in, and that those who do discriminate will be punished, word would get out pretty fast that no one should be messing around with the openness of the ‘Net.”  It looks like the agency’s temporary boss first floated this idea back in July of 2006 when he dissented from the FCC’s approval of Comcast and Time-Warner’s joint snarfdown of the remnants of Adelphia Communications. “To keep our policies current, we need to go beyond the original four principles and commit industry and the FCC to a specific principle of enforceable non-discrimination,” Copps declared at the time, “one that allows for reasonable network management but makes clear that broadband network providers will not be allowed to shackle the promise of the Internet in its adolescence.”