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Newsgroups: Net Neutrality Now!
November 2nd, 2009

The booming growth of the online world is no accident. Little to no regulation by the U.S. federal government has allowed competition to flourish, innovate and invest. But, as USENET newsgroups report, the Federal Communications Commission is considering onerous regulations that could derail all this progress.

The Federal Communications Commission last Thursday approved controversial proposed rules governing internet access during its monthly public meeting. Commissioners on all sides of the debate stressed the importance of having an open internet, and in engaging in constructive dialogue on the issue going forward.

The proposed rules also hold that providers cannot prevent users from running lawful applications or services. The agency said it is seeking comment on how it should address internet protocol-based offerings provided over networks used for broadband. The decision transformed a Washington, D.C., policy debate festering for years into a national issue pitching companies that create Internet content against businesses that own the networks.

The move has been marked by newsgroups as the beginning of a formal phase of regulating online, including USENET, access. Although the FCC in August 2005 adopted a policy statement pledging fidelity to four Net neutrality principles, such a policy was never binding upon all broadband providers.

The uncertainty over how to ensure an open Web is the latest example of how technology is moving so quickly that our regulatory institutions can’t keep up. Local technology companies and investors support strong neutrality rules, while telecommunications firms are wary of what they might mean.

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FCC Net Neutrality May Help USENET
September 21st, 2009

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced today¬† new Net Neutrality” rules that would require carriers to deliver broadband in a non-discriminatory manner and to disclose their network management policies in a transparent manner.

While the FCC is a US-only entity, fact of the matter is that “control” over the internet lies within the US, so whatever the FCC decides, it will affect the rest of the world as well the USENET and subsequent newsgroups.

The principle of Net Neutrality dictates that all Web traffic should be treated equally by Internet access providers, and has been a source of contention since the Internet’s inception decades ago. So far, the Web has been largely self-regulated, as well as the USENET.

The Net neutrality debate pits large Internet providers like AT&T and Comcast against content and application providers like Google and Skype that rely on those connections to deliver their Web pages and programs to consumers.

Genachowski proposed that the commission adopt the four principles previously laid out by former Chairman Michael Powell in 2004, known as the “Four Freedoms,” as well as two new principles he believes should be added to the list. Those are:

  • Freedom to access legal content
  • Freedom to use applications of the users’ choice
  • Freedom to attach personal devices to connections in users’ homes
  • Freedom to obtain service plan information
  • Non-discrimination: Broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications
  • Transparency: Providers must be transparent about network management practices

“[Service providers] cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes,” Genachowski said. “Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.”

Internet providers argue that they should be free to block or manage content that taxes their networks, unhindered by any regulation, while content providers like Google say that selective blocking is unfair and stymies innovation.

Genachowski said that he will begin work on implementing the new rules during the FCC’s meeting next month. If enacted, likely by a 3-2 party-line vote at the FCC’s October meeting, the rules would prevent the carriers from deliberately blocking or slowing some types of Internet traffic. The FCC has launched a new website, OpenInternet.gov, to encourage input from the public.

Newsgroups dedicated to wireless technologies note that Genachowski signaled that wireless providers should be included in the FCC’s efforts to make traffic flow freely, in much the same way that wired networks are compelled to provide open and transparent service. With wireless networks increasingly becoming more robust, the status of open wireless service grows more important daily.

The wireless situation may become increasingly sensitive because the major wireless carriers can stress that they have already paid out billions to the FCC for their spectrum.

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