2paragraphs: With the spectrum auctions, big companies made decisions that ultimately benefited the average consumer. Is legally enforced ‘net neutrality’ really essential? Or will big companies again make decisions that benefit consumers out of sheer self-interest?
Reed Hundt: The FCC today mustered a majority for a very sensible approach to assuring an open Internet: follow the antitrust philosophy of the Sherman Act, which has served our country pretty well for more than 120 years. There are two essential elements to this method: first, make decisions on a fact-based case by case basis, looking hard at the exact circumstances presented in each case; second, establish a handful of per se violations of the law–that is, practices that are presumed always to be unlawful–and judge everything else on a rule of reason–that is, make a reasonable decision based on the facts presented.
Net neutrality means, more than anything else, a guarantee that the gatekeepers of the Internet, which are the broadband providers, not pick and choose which web sites the users can access. Users should make those choices, and gatekeepers should facilitate the choices, not constrain or condition them. But technology will constantly evolve and the exact ways that Internet access providers will open the gates to the vast digital realm of web sites and data centers cannot be predicted precisely in advance. Therefore, a case by case review by the FCC of any problematic behavior is exactly the right approach for the FCC. As to the nettlesome issue of jurisdiction, the 1996 Telecommunications Act provides more than one basis for the FCC’s authority to keep the Internet open, and presumably the D.C. Circuit will approve the FCC’s proposed methodology.
–written by Reed Hundt, former chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (1993 to 1997, appointed by President Bill Clinton). At the FCC, Hundt oversaw the introduction of spectrum auctions and the implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 designed to substantially reduce the rates for international telecommunications service. Hundt is currently the CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, a non-profit advocacy coalition of businesses, investors and attorneys. He is also the author of the new e-book, Zero Hour: Time to Build the Clean Power Platform.