Commentary

Neutrality Proposal Draws Yays, Nays, Flip-Flop

Noted computer scientist Vint Cerf has added his voice to those who are asking the Federal Communications Commission to craft net neutrality regulations.

"Your network neutrality proposals will help protect U.S. Internet users' choices for and freedom to access all available Internet services, worldwide, while still providing for responsible network operation and management practices," Cerf and other Internet experts wrote to the FCC. "We believe that the vast numbers of innovative Internet applications over the last decade are a direct consequence of an open and freely accessible Internet."

With the letter, Cerf and the other experts join a growing roster of Web executives, lawmakers and Internet service provider representatives who clearly aim to shape the FCC's proposed neutrality rules, which are due out Thursday.

Earlier this week, 25 CEOs of some of the largest Web companies, including Facebook, Google and Craigslist, urged the FCC to craft rules protecting people's ability to access Web content and services. Meantime, several state attorneys general and local politicians have filed comments opposed to new neutrality regulations, as did 18 Republican senators and 72 Democratic House members.

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One of those House members, however, has already flip-flopped. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) today circulated a draft of a letter asking the FCC to protect neutrality. The letter specifically endorses a new rule that would prohibit Internet service providers from discriminating against legal content and applications.

Last week, Polis signed his name to a letter to the FCC urging regulatory restraint. Polis's press secretary insists that the Congressman always supported neutrality and didn't intend for last week's letter to indicate otherwise.

AT&T, for its part, insists on making the bizarre argument that neutrality regulations should also apply to search engines -- despite the profound differences between search engines, which publish links to Web sites, and Internet service providers, which can physically prevent people from reaching such sites.

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