The Federal Communications Commission is now accepting public comment about its Notice of Proposed Rule Making to codify net neutrality principles as a government mandate.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s proposal would create a regime in which Internet service providers (ISPs) and content providers would essentially have to ask “Mother may I?” before making the slightest change in policy, lest they run afoul of the commission’s vague definition of “reasonable management practices.” This level of regulatory uncertainty will serve only to suppress the innovation and investment that have made the Internet the wonder of the modern age.
The deadline for the initial round of public comment is January 14, 2010, with replies to those comments due March 5, 2010.
The FCC has set up a Web site so those who oppose further federal regulation of the Internet can voice their opposition. But the site is clunky and difficult to use. When you click on the link to file a standard comment, you are shown a form that requires a “proceeding number.” Don’t know it? Then you’ll get error messages each time you try to file.
It is ironic — or, perhaps, scary — that the FCC thinks it has the expertise to regulate the entire Internet but can’t even produce a smooth interactive experience on its own Web page.
I eventually figured out how to make the “express” comment form work. That’s probably the best route for those who don’t have the time or inclination to monkey around on the FCC’s mess of a Web site.
Here’s a quick primer.
Click on: “Submit a Filing (Express)”
Click on: “09-51 National Broadband Plan Notice of Inquiry” under the “Docket” heading.
Fill out the fields that ask for your name and address, write or paste your comments in the text field, and click “continue.”
You will then be shown a screen with your comments — as well as a red-letter warning that your comments will be made public. Near the top of the screen is a link that says “Confirm.” Click that.
Voila! You can participate in the public debate in just a few somewhat-confusing steps.
If you cherish the freedoms we enjoy on the Internet, as well as the vibrant innovation that makes our online experiences better every day, it is imperative that you make your voice heard. If the FCC’s Open Internet Idea Scale (http://openinternet.ideascale.com/) is anything to go by, the proponents of government control are out in force.
James G. Lakely ([email protected]) is co-director of The Heartland Institute’s Center on the Digital Economy and managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News.