The White House blog isn’t the most gripping read in the world (I think my favorite government blog is either Gov Gab or the Library of Congress blog) but you can get some good announcements on there now and again. I was reading it on Monday and noticed a rather interesting post from the head of the FCC, Julius Genachowski.
The blog proposed two new rules for the FCC. The first was a clear position in favor of network neutrality — “broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications.” (There are exceptions made for spam, malware sites, and unlawful material.) The second is to support the first, “broadband providers must be transparent about their network management practices.” While these sound like reasonable proposals, and I’m glad to see the government taking a position on this, I’m annoyed that it’s taken so long; Net Neutrality has been a controversial issue for a while now.
In addition to this statement of network neutrality support, the government has a new Web site: OpenInternet.gov. Surprise! It’s in beta. The site doesn’t contain a lot at the moment, but here are some of the highlights:
There’s a speech from Mr. Genachowski about his vision of the Internet as an useful and enduring institution. There’s a place that you can sign up for e-mail alerts from the FCC. And there’s a video of the speech by Mr. Genachowski. But that is not the fascinating part of the site to me.
The fascinating part of the site to me is the forum that’s underneath the video of the site. It’s a pretty basic forum — huge numbers of threaded posts in a big file — but the discussion is excellent. There are plenty of Yay! posts but also many “Hey this is a bad idea” posts. Brett Glass contributes a lot to the discussion. I hadn’t heard from Brett in YEARS … he used to write a … column? for a magazine I read back in the early 90s. I want to say Communications Week but I’m not sure. There were so many industry magazines back then.
The thing this discussion really does is is make it clear how complicated this issue actually is. Network neutrality is a good idea. But what about inappropriate material that’s not clearly defined by law? What about those applications and sites, not even invented yet, that take up so much bandwidth that they endanger the bandwidth of other customers at an ISP? Who’s going to make sure an ISP’s network management practices are actually transparent?
Now that the FCC has taken a position, these discussions had been had. I look forward to seeing them. I just hope that a) the forum is a little easier to peruse than what’s available on OpenInternet.gov and b) OpenInternet.gov gets its own RSS feed (sigh…)