ACLU to FCC: It's Title II Time

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The American Civil Liberties Union has released a report detailing why it thinks the FCC should impose Title II common carrier regulations on broadband access services.

In Network Neutrality 101, the group, which calls network openness a key free speech issues, argues that common carrier rules apply to most forms of telecommunications, and as they have been to railroads, canals, telegraphs and telephones, they should be applied to the online world. "These rules have already been written into the law by Congress; the FCC should apply them to broadband," said ACLU.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed applying some Title II telecommunications service common carrier rules to Internet Service Providers, but that ran into heavy fire from network providers and many in Congress. That option is still on the table, but so are others like trying to find broadband oversight authority under the Title I information service designation under which the FCC currently regulates broadband.

"As we enter a new phase in the Internet's history, network neutrality needs to be given legal force so that it cannot be swept away by powerful corporations and so that cyberspace remains the free and open medium that we have come to expect."

Without that protection, ACLU argues, those companies will make "fundamental and detrimental" changes to the open Internet.

For their part, those companies have pointed out there is scant evidence of blocking or degrading content, and that it is in the best interests of their companies in a wildly competitive marketplace to give users the best Internet experience possible which in addition to being able to access content and applications of their choosing, also includes managing their networks for the booming volume of traffic. For example, the International Telecommunications Union predicted Tuesday that 2 billion people worldwide will be online by the end of this year.

ACLU's tabbing of network neutrality as "one of the foremost free speech issues of our time" comes the same week that freedom is being celebrated by news organizations, academics and the public (http://www.freespeechweek.org/).

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