CAMBRIDGE, MA – Against the backdrop of protesters both in and outside of Austin Hall, the Federal Communications Commission held a public “en banc” hearing today at Harvard Law School to hear testimony from experts and the public on the future of internet regulation.
U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Edward Markey introduced the hearing. Markey is a proponent of “net neutrality” legislation that would regulate how Internet providers operate. The Commission’s goal today, he said, was to reexamine regulatory policy surrounding Internet service in order to protect freedom of use and to strengthen innovation in the process.
Outside of the Ames Courtroom, a group of protestors held signs reading “FCC ≠ Diversity” and spoke out against the Commission’s role in shaping telecommunications policy.
“We can see the start of the closing of doors,” said one protester from behind a podium on the steps of Austin Hall. The protesters called for “fairness, openness and accountability,” in how the government deals with Internet regulations.
The panel of four FCC commissioners included Chairman Kevin Martin, Michael J. Copps, Jonathan S. Adelstein and Robert M. McDowell. Martin said that the FCC’s policy in regard to the Internet is based on four principles: consumers are entitled to access to lawful content, can run services and applications of their choice, connect their choice of legal devices to the network and are entitled to competition among providers.
Martin added that the “commission is ready, willing and able to step in and correct,” business practices that are in violation of those principles.
Adelstein called on the commission and Congress to adopt an “Internet Bill of Rights,” which would secure “the unalienable right to liberty on the Internet.” McDowell was more skeptical of potential regulation, saying that “competitive markets, not government micromanagement,” is what has built the Internet to what it is today.
During his introduction, Markey recalled a field hearing of his subcommittee he chaired in Massachusetts in October of 1987. According to Markey, at that hearing, “the single most important decisions in fostering the Internet,” were made by establishing the government’s emphasis on networking technology and innovation. “The internet is mine and yours as much as it is Verizon’s and AT&T’s,” Markey said today.