Boucher Pushes Mandated Net Neutrality


Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has called on his colleagues to codify principles of Internet network neutrality into its coming rewrite of telecommunications law.

As part of a decision to exempt telephone companies' broadband Internet service from access rules--as it has already done for cable modem service--the commission also adopted a policy statement advocating network neutrality, but Boucher called that a good first step, the next step being a congressional mandate to the FCC to enforce those principles.

"The FCC's recent adoption of a Policy Statement regarding the principles of Net Neutrality is an appropriate first step in ensuring that all persons continue to enjoy the unfettered ability to access and use the Internet in a lawful manner without being impeded by broadband network operators," Boucher said, "However, the next step must be taken by the Congress in codifying the Net Neutrality principles and bestowing on the FCC the clear authority to enforce the principles,"

Boucher's call echoed closely that Friday of VP for Global Policy Paul Misener, who said immediately following the decision Friday: "We welcome the FCC’s finding that American consumers are entitled to broadband Internet access unimpaired by network operators. We also appreciate that the FCC drew a line in the sand against interference by network operators.  In order to better protect this important consumer right of unfettered access to lawful Internet content, we believe Congress should take the next step and enact additional safeguards."

The key tenets of the FCC statement were: "(1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice; (2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; (3) consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and (4) consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers."

In calling for congressional action, Boucher restated that last plank in a bit more forceful terms, changing it from a general entitlement to consumers to an explicit prohibition on networks. He said the FCC should be able to "prohibit operators from unreasonably favoring themselves of their affiliates in the provision of Internet services."

Boucher referred broadly to complaints "of improper action by broadband network operators blocking access to websites that offer content in competition with that offered by the broadband provider."

Boucher is a member of the Commerce Committee, which will be working on rewriting the 1996 Telecommunications Act for the digital age.