The Federal Communications Commission Thursday started a process that could end with the first formal regulations of the Internet. The Commission voted to open its rulemaking process, and begin hearing comments on a proposal to create net neutrality rules.
The proposal is designed to keep the Internet open. It would allow users to run legal applications and visit any legal website, and it would prohibit Internet providers from blocking or slowing Web content.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the rules are necessary to protect innovation on the Internet and to preserve the openness that has allowed the Internet to grow.
"The problem is not merely that we've seen some significant situations where broadband providers have degraded the data streams of popular lawful services and blocked consumer access to lawful applications," he said. "The heart of the problem is that... we face the dangerous combination of an uncertain legal framework with ongoing as well as emerging challenges to a free and open Internet."
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But FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said new rules are not necessary, saying the Internet has seen massive growth because of a lack of regulations. "The Internet is perhaps the greatest deregulatory success story of all time," he said. "No government has ever succeeded in mandating innovation and investment."
McDowell said he fears new rules could inadvertently hurt the growth of the Internet and give a precedent to other nations that want to create all kinds of new Internet regulations.
Supporters counter that argument by saying the proposed rules regulate network providers, but not Web applications vendors. They say innovations come from the people writing applications, not the networks.
Opponents say the very idea of the Internet was to build a forum free of government regulations. So why step in now? Tim Kerpen from Americans for Prosperity wrote on Foxnews.com:
“Proponents of net neutrality rely on the scare tactic that big bad cable and phone companies will block access to Web sites and cause other mischief unless the benevolent federal government rides to the rescue, and soon."
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Read the debate on OpposingViews.com: Should the Govenment Regulate Net Neutrality