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Movement On Net Neutrality

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By Gautham Nagesh November 30, 2009

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Today's Federal Register includes an official notice from the FCC that it is proposing a rule that would "preserve the open Internet." Net Neutrality has been a hot topic in recent days; two weeks ago a White House official spoke out in favor of the concept and took a shot at the broadband industry.

Speaking at a telecom policy conference last week, Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin compared censorship in China -- where President Obama's recent comments on open Internet values were blocked from Chinese Web sites -- to the need for net neutrality rules so as to prevent corporations from acting as gatekeepers of information and speech:

"If it bothers you that the China government does it, it should bother you when your cable company does it," McLaughlin said at the policy conference. The administration has made net neutrality a cornerstone of its technology agenda.

Those comments did not sit well with AT&T's chief lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, who issued an angry response. He said it was "ill-considered and inflammatory" to connect censorship in China to the practices of American ISPs, whom he said do not threaten free speech.

The language in today's notice is fairly straightforward:

In this NPRM, the Commission proposes draft language to codify the four principles the Commission articulated in the Internet Policy Statement; a fifth principle that would require a broadband Internet access service provider to treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner; and a sixth principle that would require a broadband Internet access service provider to disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this rulemaking.

Members of the public have until January 14 to submit comments and there will be a second reply period that lasts until March 5. Which means some time next spring is when we can probably expect net neutrality to become official government policy. I'm sure there are users out there somewhere breathing a sigh of relief.

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