New America Foundation and the public interest organizations submitting these comments maintain that the Federal Communications Commission must act to preserve the open Internet, and that it should do so now. The record developed during this proceeding is clear, and the need for the rules proposed by the Commission becomes even more clear with each disclosure of additional broadband Internet access service provider misconduct. Content-based and application-based discrimination and prioritization threaten the structure and functioning of this transformative communications medium. The Commission should adopt the common sense rules that it has proposed, subject to minor modifications that would improve and clarify the final rules, as they are essential to promoting free expression, economic opportunity,civic participation, civil rights, and social equality online and in society at large.
There is widespread agreement on the value of the open Internet and on the appropriateness of the Commission’s four original open Internet principles. Opponents claim, incorrectly, that there is no need because the competitive marketplace will allay concerns regarding discrimination and degradation of free expression on the Internet. To the contrary, the record demonstrates that there is no effective competition in broadband Internet access services, and that the market structure, market power, and incumbents' advantages require open Internet rules. Even if competition existed in this access marketplace, each individual broadband Internet access provider would be unlikely to have the incentive to act in ways that elevate promotion of long-term benefits for the Internet ecosystem over short-term individual profits. However, because this access market is not competitive, protections from broadband Internet access service misconduct are all the more vital.
The principles and rules that the Commission ultimately adopts can and should be the same for wireline and wireless networks, even if the definition of “reasonable network management” differs on a categorical or case-by-case basis depending on legitimate differences between different network architectures. Broadband Internet users should have the same freedom to use and access Internet resources whether their devices reach the Internet over a WiFi connection to a wired LAN or, moments later, connect over a wireless carrier’s network. From a consumer perspective, today there is one Internet. The Commission should not encourage a policy environment in which the substance and utility of “the Internet” to which consumers purchase access is highly variable and unpredictable. Such a policy would quickly devolve into yet another digital divide between those who are savvy or affluent enough to acquire “true” Internet access, and other populations who end up with a closed, channelized, and hobbled version of the Internet.
The opportunity to avoid the evolution of two competing Internets – one wired and open,
the other wireless and closed – will be lost if the Commission does not clarify a common framework before true broadband-speed 4G networks are widely deployed over the next two years. As a regulatory matter, this should not be controversial. The Commission has previously determined that establishing a common framework for all broadband Internet access providers serves the public interest.