The Report of The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy
Recommendation 9: Maintain the national commitment to open networks as a core objective of Internet policy.
The early architecture of the Internet supported untold user innovation, yielding vast social benefits. Under the so-called “end-to-end principle,” computing intelligence resided chiefly with users at the ends of the network. The owners and operators of the networks exerted little control over the flow of data. Over time, however, network owners and operators asserted that their active management of networks would also yield benefits, especially with regard to network security and the ability to support new services. The policy challenge is to balance these network benefits against the potential risk to innovation. It is critical that network practices do not undermine the overall environment for innovation. The Federal Communications Commission’s embrace of the four Internet freedoms identified by then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell well illustrates the federal commitment to openness. The first freedom is the right to access content of the consumer’s choosing. The second is the freedom to use all lawful applications. The third is the freedom to attach personal devices that do no harm to the network. Chairman Powell identified the fourth freedom as the right to receive full and accurate information about one’s service plan. The FCC broadened that freedom into an expansive right to competition. These principles are widely accepted, and the FCC should vigorously enforce them in a way that assures the public open access to the content and services they desire. The Knight Commission regards the openness of networks as essential to meeting community information needs. Legislators and other policy makers should remain vigilant and committed to maintaining openness.
Published on Feb 5, 2010