Monday, November 2, 2009
Federal internet policy is emerging from the net neutrality debate with a clear commitment to vague principles. What began as a scuffle over configuring routers grew into a dizzying scramble to defend the internet as we know it -- and it turned out, nobody knows it quite the same way. Still, the discourse over net neutrality has been productive. From its initial ambiguity, it blossomed into a rich literature on innovation policy and the future of communications in our democracy. It inspired deep thinking on the core dynamics that make the Internet worth defending.
While the politics remain unsettled, Congress has charged the new FCC to help develop a national broadband plan. And, in the next month, the FCC will begin rulemaking to enshrine as formal rules the 4 internet principles. It will also add 2 new principles: non-discrimination and transparency. Together, these 6 principles are part of the FCC’s announced program to preserve the Internet’s openness. The vague principles will be given a richer form.
In this paper, we focus on achieving the new "transparency" principle. The Chairman asserted that "providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices." This transparency demands a technical and specific disclosure. We propose such a disclosure regime.
Our disclosure’s immediate goal is neither improved consumer choice nor more effective regulatory oversight. Instead, tracking the incentives that function in open source software collaborations, our disclosure is aimed at high level network users, what we term with no doubt flattering vainglory, the "internet vanguard". Our disclosure is aimed at those with pecuniary, personal and reputational interests to track, react to, and defend open networks; strengthening a balance, even an ecosystem, between network managers’ tendency to centralize and users’ tendency to innovate freely at the periphery.
Download the paper from SSRN here.