After months of heated debate, intense partisan jockeying, goo-gobs of rhetoric being spun left and right and an exhaustive litany of hearings, comments and ex parte filings, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski finally announced that the Commission will, in fact, be voting on net neutrality rules during its December 21 meeting. While the official Order has yet to be released, it seems that the Commission's proposal goes a little something like this:
• Internet users are entitled to basic transparency protections regarding the ways that broadband networks are managed;
• They are entitled to send and receive the lawful content of their choosing online, and blocking or degrading lawful Internet traffic is prohibited;
• Internet users can rest assured that their interactions online will be free from any unreasonable discrimination;
• Reasonable network management is permissible only to the extent required to ensure the best functioning of the Internet; and finally
• The unique needs of different types of network connections -- wired, wireless or otherwise -- will be taken into account in determining the reasonableness of network management practices.
Pretty simple, straightforward stuff. Now, by all accounts, this proposal seems to be a fairly solid compromise between the volumes of input the FCC received from consumer groups, policymakers, elected officials, industry leaders, civil rights organizations, labor unions and regular people interested enough in the issue to chime in. It even seems to include elements of Genachowski's own Third Way Proposal from earlier in the year, with a dash of the original Four Internet Freedoms of the Powell/Martin-era FCC, and a hint of some consensus elements that one-time rivals were able to agree on earlier this fall when Congressman Henry Waxman tried to get a net neutrality bill passed through Congress before midterms.
So the question is, if this proposal basically takes into account the interests of various parties who took part in net neutrality discussion over the past year and a half -- what in the world is wrong with compromise? Why are the same people who fought so hard to get net neutrality rules imposed by the Commission, now so angry that a proposed framework is on the table?
Something drastic has happened to our culture where it has for some reason unbeknownst to me become 'en vogue' to whine your way toward relevance. The very same 'consumer interest groups' that were staunch advocates of Genachowski just months ago are now criticizing him more harshly than even his worst critics.
One need only look as far as Mark Ammori to see a prime example of someone whose brash critique of Genachowski overlooks the important work he's doing in trying to bring this oh-so-contentious issue to a close. What's more, what Ammori and other critics fail to realize is that with the net neutrality issue being close to tabled, the Commission can finally focus on the real "priority" of this administration -- implementation of the National Broadband Plan.
The fact that the rhetoric has continued even when there's a prospective solution in sight raises serious questions about why certain folks are so vested in seeing this net neutrality fray continue. Could it be that they, in fact, benefit from manufacturing chaos? Is the heated anger really just a way to attract more media attention to groups that are otherwise irrelevant or invisible to the vast majority of our nation's population?
When people spend more time and money fighting against "big corporations" than they do investing in the poor, unserved and underprivileged communities they claim to care about and represent, one at least wonders what really motivates the free press to save the internet for everyone by providing them with public knowledge about the power of the Internet.
Maybe because I didn't grow up wealthy, or because my introduction to technology really was lifesaving and life altering that I view this proposal differently than some others may.
Maybe I'm naive to believe that compromise is a good thing, and not a four-letter word.
But maybe, just maybe, there are other rational, moderate people out there, like me, who see that something is better than nothing, and that the FCC's ability to deal with net neutrality now in the way that it's trying to puts us much closer to our ultimate goal of achieving universal broadband adoption and use for all than continued bickering ever will.
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