Public Knowledge – Principles for an Open Broadband Future: “Principles for an Open Broadband Future

A Public Knowledge White Paper

2005/07/06 12:00:00 GMT-4

(This paper is also available in DOC and PDF formats.)


The deployment of broadband telecommunications services could have

as great an impact on society as the appearance of the printing

press in the 15th century and television and radio in the

20th. Broadband technologies have the potential to bring

about unprecedented benefits to consumers and to our national

economy. If the U.S. adopts the right policy framework, emphasizing

competition and limited regulation, the growth of broadband

technologies will significantly strengthen our democracy and every

individual’s economic empowerment.

Unfortunately, broadband services are at risk of being controlled by

gatekeepers who have the ability to skew the marketplace against the

interests of consumers. As a result of recent mergers in the

telecommunications and cable industries, broadband provision is

increasingly dominated by a duopoly that is under no obligation to

ensure that their networks are open and accessible to all users and

applications. Moreover, outdated government spectrum policies have

placed artificial limits on broadband deployment. In large part

because of these developments, the U.S. ranks only 16th in the world

in broadband adoption.

These problems arise because broadband technologies are operating in

a policy vacuum. Today, there is no plan to ensure that broadband

will be affordable; there are no enforcement measures to ensure that

broadband networks are open and transparent; there is no plan to

maximize the provision of unlicensed wireless broadband services and

there is no guarantee that municipalities have the right to deploy

broadband services for their consumers. This policy vacuum creates

uncertainty, chills innovation, and depresses both the demand and

supply of broadband services.

The U.S. needs to enact a clear set of principles for broadband

services to ensure that these networks are widely deployed, open,

affordable and accessible to all consumers. Without such principles,

there is great danger that any future legislation on these issues

will become a grab bag of special interest provisions. Therefore,

the following principles should be the starting point for any

telecommunications legislation in the 109th Congress.

Broadband networks must be

open to competition from any entity, including municipalities;

open to the attachment of any equipment the user chooses, as

long as it does not harm the technical operation of the broadband


open and accessible to consumers, application developers, and

information service providers and to other networks, without

restrictions or degradation, except for law enforcement or for

network management purposes;

open, available and affordable to all consumers, regardless of

income, race, geographic location, or disability; and

open to the maximally efficient number of licensed and

unlicensed wireless providers.”