Posts Tagged ‘Julius Genachowski’

A Chat with FCC Chief Genachowski

October 26, 2009

A Chat with FCC Chief Genachowski
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on broadband access, net neutrality, a spectrum gap, innovation, competition, and consumer empowerment

A day after the Federal Communications Commission voted to explore new rules to prevent Internet service providers from blocking certain services and content, the agency’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, stopped by BusinessWeek’s offices to discuss regulations for an open Internet as well as other media, telecom, and technology issues. A final decision on so-called net neutrality regulations isn’t expected for months.

But the unanimous FCC vote on Oct. 22 is a significant early victory for Genachowski in what is a major—and controversial—policy priority for the chairman, who has been on the job for just three months. Below are edited excerpts from Genachowski’s conversation with BusinessWeek staff members, compiled by senior writer Tom Lowry.

Q: You support a sweeping plan to make broadband more accessible in this country, an initiative that will require lots of private investment. At the same time, new regulations for a neutral Internet will certainly antagonize many of the companies that will be needed to make those investments. How do you reconcile that?
A: First of all, we are not regulating the Internet. What we did yesterday was launch a rule-making process where over the months ahead, we will be getting a lot of public input on what are fair, common-sense rules of the road to ensure that any small business, any entrepreneur, any speaker engaging in a lawful activity can have access to the Internet and the ability to reach an audience.

Q: When talking about net neutrality, is it a good idea to allow companies to charge more for better services on the Internet?
A: We need to make sure that our rules allow for business-model experimentation. Who knows exactly at this point how that will work? We want to make sure what we do welcomes technological changes, because the last thing we want to do is freeze anything in place.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Opening the Wireless Internet: The Importance of Carterfone

August 1, 2009

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski has come out swinging. You have to applaud his boldness. In the FCC’s first major inquiry since Genachowski took over the agency on June 29, the FCC has launched an inquiry into AT&T Inc. and Apple Inc. over the rejection of Google’s voice application for the Apple iPhone and App store.

On Friday, the FCC sent letters to executives at Apple, Google and AT&T, which is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States, saying it was “interested in a more complete understanding of this situation.”

The future of the wireless Web may be at stake. As Erick Schonfeld noted in a good TechCrunch post, there are two different Internets: the open landline Internet and the controlled wireless Internet. In the letter, the FCC’s acting Chief of its Wireless Telecommunications Bureau said that the inquiry was being made in conjunction with the FCC’s “ongoing proceedings regarding wireless open access and handset exclusivity.” In those inquiries, companies, including Skype, have asked the FCC to issue a declaratory ruling that the FCC’s so-called Carterfone rules apply to the wireless Internet.

In November of 2007, I wrote about Carterfone and the law professor, Columbia’s Tim Wu, who is trying to get the FCC to follow its landmark precedent requiring that communications networks remain open to any device or application. Wu is the professor who helped inspire Google to form its wireless strategy and petition the FCC to get it to force new wireless spectrum to follow rules of openness.

In February 2007, Wu published a paper in the International Journal of Communication proposing that the FCC apply the industry’s “Carterfone” rules to wireless.

It’s a fascinating case that carries huge implications for today. For decades, AT&T had prohibited consumers from attaching anything but its own phones to its network. In 1968, AT&T tried to bar the use of a “Carterfone”, which linked a mobile radio to a telephone.

But the FCC labeled AT&T’s move “unduly discriminatory” and allowed consumers the right to install devices of their choice. That decision enabled the creation of the fax machine and the Internet modem. Wu wrote: “The same rule for the wireless networks could…stimulate the development of new applications and free equipment designers to make the best phones possible.”

Now it looks AT&T could be getting embroiled in another historic shift. And history, and perhaps popular opinion, do not seem to be on their side once again. Decades ago Carterfone changed the future of communications. Today, Google Voice could stand for another watershed moment.