FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has come out with plans to ensure Net Neutrality.
After more than a decade of debate and a record-setting proceeding that attracted nearly 4 million public comments, the time to settle the Net Neutrality question has arrived.
This week, I will circulate to the members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules to preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression.
This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months.
Citing congressional action that has given the FCC the authority to handle the issue of Net Neutrality, Wheeler today made it clear he aims to put the public good over the private benefit. He cited* his own experience with open-ended networks as an influence on his views.
I was president of a startup, NABU: The Home Computer Network. My company was using new technology to deliver high-speed data to home computers over cable television lines. Across town Steve Case was starting what became AOL. NABU was delivering service at the then-blazing speed of 1.5 megabits per second—hundreds of times faster than Case’s company. “We used to worry about you a lot,” Case told me years later.
But NABU went broke while AOL became very successful. Why that is highlights the fundamental problem with allowing networks to act as gatekeepers.
While delivering better service, NABU had to depend on cable television operators granting access to their systems. Steve Case was not only a brilliant entrepreneur, but he also had access to an unlimited number of customers nationwide who only had to attach a modem to their phone line to receive his service. The phone network was open whereas the cable networks were closed. End of story.
Wheeler’s proposal would in sum ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. To add, his initiative would encourage commercial investment in broadband.
The internet must be fast, fair and open.
It was only last year that Wheeler had received the ire of various tech companies and activists for his previous proposals on Net Neutrality. Since President Obama came out in favor of Net Neutrality, Tom Wheeler has similarly taken a position of advocating for better and more fair internet service. If his stance holds, he may well ensure his legacy as the man who brought the United States up to speed.
*One of our commentators pointed out a spelling error. It has been corrected.