In August 2005 the FCC adopted a policy statement (the Internet Policy Statement) that endeavored to ensure that broadband consumers would have access to all lawful content on the Internet and that all lawful applications could be used on the networks.
The Statement outlined four principles to “encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of [the] public Internet.” The four principles are:
- (1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice;
- (2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice (subject to the needs of law enforcement);
- (3) consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and
- (4) consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
FCC Interpretation of these Principles
Then-FCC Chairman Martin did not call for their codification. However, he stated that they will be incorporated into the policymaking activities of the Commission. For example, one of the agreed upon conditions for the October 2005 approval of both the Verizon/MCI and the SBC/AT&T mergers was an agreement made by the involved parties to commit, for two years, “to conduct business in a way that comports with the Commission’s (2005) Internet policy statement. . . .”
In a further action, AT&T included in its concessions to gain FCC approval of its merger to BellSouth to adhering, for two years, to significant net neutrality requirements. Under terms of the merger agreement, which was approved on December 29, 2006, AT&T agreed to not only uphold, for 30 months, the Internet Policy Statement principles, but also committed, for two years (expired December 2008), to stringent requirements to “maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service.”
- See FCC Adopts Policy Statement on Broadband Internet Access (Aug. 5, 2005).
- See FCC Approves SBC/AT&T and Verizon/MCI Mergers. It should be noted that applicants offered certain voluntary commitments, of which this was one.
- See FCC Approves Merger of AT&T, Inc. and Bellsouth Corporation.