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Monday, February 9, 2004

Net Freedom
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Chairman Powell issued a new policy statement yesterday at the Silicon Flatirons symposium which is now available at the FCC's website. Building upon recent speeches in which the Chairman has described the digital migration as giving "power to the people," Powell stated that consumers have a high expectation of maintaining the choices they currently enjoy due to the Internet's open architecture. In a warning of sorts, Powell added that industry should embrace openness and choice to avoid future regulation. It's not "charity," Powell emphasized, but "good business."

Powell also outlined four principles of what he called "net freedom," including the consumer's choice to (1) access legal content; (2) applications or application development; and (3) attach equipment to the end of the network. Most important, in Powell's view, is that (4) consumers must receive clear information from broadband providers about the packages they offer.

Answering questions from the audience, Powell added that he is not calling for network providers to be "big dumb wholesale providers" and the FCC would still need substantial evidence of consumer harm in order to bring in regulation. He challenged industry to publicize (and compete upon) the fact that they adhere to the principles, and also challenged consumers to hold industry accountable, as they are the "ultimate judges of what is working." At bottom, Powell concluded, the market is a dialogue between producers and consumers, and industry needs to be more responsive to "the digital generation."

The timing of the speech could not be more promising for VoIP providers as the FCC is set to rule on the Pulver.com petition and issue the VoIP NPRM later this week.

(Sidebar - kudos to the law students at The University of Colorado for asking succinct questions of the Chairman, instead of the usual "look at what I know" soapboxing by industry reps and academians that normally goes on during the Q&A sessions at these conferences).

posted by @ 9:42 PM | General

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