This week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced plans to expand net neutrality rules. His announcement was met with consternation from at least one wireless service provider; AT&T argued that it should be allowed to limit some internet activity. But Genachowski disagrees.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This week, at a speech at the Brookings Institution, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed formalizing the rules to ensure that Internet service providers treat all content providers equally. In other words, whether you drive a Prius or a road-hogging Hummer on the information superhighway, the people who own the roads can't change you different rates for different speeds. Or, more to the point, whether you are the Goliath called Google or a teenager called, I don't know, Spike, you'll pay the same price for service. And Genachowski also proposed broadening the so-called net neutrality rules to include not just home broadband providers like cable companies but wireless carriers as well, like phone companies. Genachowski says that net neutrality will ensure that ISPs can't quash competition, give preferential treatment to friends or secretly mess with your service, which has happened before.
JULIUS GENACHOWSKI: Making sure that both wired and wireless providers have the reasonable ability to manage their networks is important. It’s important because those companies need to be incentivized to invest in their networks, to make the pipes bigger and more robust. Our job is to make sure that as they do that, the Internet remains open.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Without compromising any individual innovator’s access to the same speed and the same advantages of the big guys.
JULIUS GENACHOWSKI: Well, net neutrality is a set of principles around fair rules of the road that preserve equal access to the Internet so that any innovator has the same chance to come up with an idea, start a business, put it on the Internet and succeed.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Let's say AT&T and Apple want to keep Google Voice, which is a competitive service - free texting and cheap international calls - off the iPhones. And the reason that they give is that it consumes too much network space. It’s probably a pretty good reason, given how much spectrum is taken up by the iPhone. On the other hand, it’s an awfully suspicious reason, because this is a competitive service. It strikes me that in your approach to network neutrality you’re very much concerned that competitive services get a fair shake, but there doesn't seem to be much here that can ensure that the pipelines are going to get any bigger. What are you going to do about the clogging?
JULIUS GENACHOWSKI: So there are a couple of points. One is, we may very well need to identify more spectrum to be put to use for the wireless industry, and that’s something that we're working on at the FCC. The second thing is we are looking to find ways to incentivize more efficient use of the spectrum, so that you can actually put more water through the same pipe. We've seen improvements in spectrum efficiency over the years. We're looking to find ways to accelerate spectrum efficiency because we know that the demands on our spectrum are going to grow and grow and grow.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What’s wrong with charging Google more than some little guy?
JULIUS GENACHOWSKI: Well, the important thing is that any business models that are put in place give everyone an equal chance to compete on the platform. We need to have experimentation around business models that encourage investment in the wireless network and in the wired network. We also need to have an open platform that encourages the broadest range of competition and entrepreneurial activity.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The point is to make sure that other Googles can emerge. But once they become Google, why can't you give ‘em a bill?
JULIUS GENACHOWSKI: Yeah. No, no, I understand what you’re saying. We're - you know, at this stage of the game we've announced that in October we will begin an open process where all stakeholders will have a chance to participate. People can participate in it at OpenInternet.gov, and we'll have other ways to engage ideas and talk about specific examples. But we haven't started the proceeding yet. That will start next month. And that'll be the venue for an open, vibrant, intensive exchange of ideas over what kind of rules of the road would best serve America’s interests.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thank you very much.
JULIUS GENACHOWSKI: Brooke, thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.