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FCC Chairman Backs 'Open Internet' Rules

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FCC Chairman Backs 'Open Internet' Rules

Digital Life

FCC Chairman Backs 'Open Internet' Rules

FCC Chairman Backs 'Open Internet' Rules

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In a speech Monday to the Brookings Institution, Julius Genachowski, the head of the Federal Communications Commission, proposed that the FCC officially adopt six rules to enforce open access to the Internet with no content providers favored over others and no legal content blocked. Consumer groups welcomed the plan, but major U.S. Providers were cool to the proposal.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The Internet has gone largely unregulated since it came into being more than 30 years ago, and that may be one of its charms. But today, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced his intention to change that, as NPR's Neda Ulaby reports.

NEDA ULABY: Julius Genachowski's speech at the Brookings Institution was the telecommunications equivalent of a nightstick rattling across the railing.

Mr. JULIUS GENACHOWSKI (Chairman, Federal Communications Commission): I believe the Federal Communications Commission must be a smart cop on the beat, preserving a free and open Internet.

ULABY: The Internet was founded on the principle of sharing information, but Genachowski says that's changed. Companies are learning how to manipulate and control information, both political and commercial, and how quickly you can get it. For example, a huge company can pay for its pages to open faster than those of a little company.

Mr. GENACHOWSKI: We could see the Internet's doors shut to entrepreneurs, the spirit of innovation stifled, a full and free flow of information compromised, or we could take steps to preserve Internet openness.

ULABY: To that end, Genachowski proposed six steps; FCC regulations that revolve around what's called net neutrality, which has as its tenets consumer choice and corporate transparency. David Young is vice president of regulatory affairs for Verizon. He did his best to sound hopeful about the prospect of government regulation.

Mr. DAVID YOUNG (Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Verizon): I'm pleased to hear that the chairman intends to do only as much as needed and no more.

ULABY: What Genachowski intends to do is preserve the Internet's open architecture, which he says benefits businesses of all sizes and ordinary people. In fact, his admirers say he's trying to constructively bring them together.

Mr. JOSH SILVERMAN (Chief Executive Officer, Skype): What the chairman is laying out is a policy that says that you can use any software you want on any device you want. So for example, you can use Skype on your mobile phone.

ULABY: And you are, by the way?

Mr. SILVERMAN: I'm the CEO of Skype. My name is Josh Silverman.

ULABY: Skype lets you use your computer to call other Skype users for free. And at a moment when our computers and cell phones are becoming the same thing, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski says companies need to realize their consumers' needs and their own bottom lines may just be the same thing.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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