Comment on A National Broadband Plan For Our Future, Notice of Inquiry, FCC GN Docket No. 09-51.

Submitted June 8, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) aims at building a new economic foundation for the United States by providing, “job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed,” et cetera. As one step towards these goals, the ARRA mandates that the FCC deliver a National Broadband Plan to Congress by February 17, 2010.

The National Broadband Plan mandated in Section 6001(k)(2) of the ARRA makes clear that its objectives are for, “all people of the United States . . . the public . . . [for] advancing consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.” It would be impossible to achieve most of these benefits without the Internet. The most direct, most immediate way to reach these objectives is via broadband connections to the Internet.

Broadband has other uses, to be sure. It is used for cellular backhaul, in cable TV systems, for proprietary financial transaction networks and for other proprietary enterprise networks. While cellcos, cablecos and enterprises may need better broadband technologies for their own proprietary purposes, these uses don’t rise to the level that would require a National Broadband Plan for “all people of the United States.” The people of the United States already have reasonable telephone and television services; they need faster, more affordable, more ubiquitous, more reliable connections to the Internet.

Broadband is not the Internet. Broadband is shorthand for a diverse class of wired and wireless digital transmission technologies. The Internet, in contrast, is a set of public protocols for inter-networking systems that specifies how data packets are structured and processed. Broadband technologies, at their essence, are high-capacity and always-on. The essence of the Internet is (a) that it carries all packets that follow its protocols regardless of what kinds of data the packets carry, (b) that it can interconnect all networks that follow those protocols, and (c) its protocols are defined via well-established public processes.

There’s risk in confusing broadband and Internet. If the National Broadband Plan starts from the premise that the U.S. needs the innovation, increased productivity, new ideas and freedoms of expression that the Internet affords, then the Plan will be shaped around the Internet. If, instead, the Plan is premised on a need for broadband, it fails to address the ARRA’s mandated objectives directly. More importantly, the premise that broadband is the primary goal entertains the remaking of the Internet in ways that could put its benefits at risk. The primary goal of the Plan should be broadband connections to the Internet.

The FCC’s Internet Policy Statement of 2005 is a first attempt to codify important aspects of the Internet independent of access technology. It advocates end-user access to content, and end-user choice of applications, services and devices. It says that Internet users are, “entitled to competition,” but it does not spell out the entitlement to the benefits of competition, such as increased choice, lower price and diversity of offers. It fails to provide for information about whether advertised services perform as specified. It doesn’t address packet inspection, packet discrimination, data collection or end-user privacy. It is not clear that all of these are within the FCC’s purview, but it is abundantly clear that all of these factors should be critical to a National Broadband Plan that addresses broadband connections to the Internet.

Therefore, we urge that the FCC’s National Broadband Plan emphasize that broadband connection to the Internet is the primary goal. In addition, we strongly suggest that the Plan incorporate the FCC Internet Policy Statement of 2005 and extend it to (a) include consumer information that meaningfully specifies connection performance and identifies any throttling, filtering, packet inspection, data collection, et cetera, that the provider imposes upon the connection, (b) prohibit discriminatory or preferential treatment of packets based on sender, recipient or packet contents. Finally, we suggest that the Internet is such a critical infrastructure that enforcement of mandated behavior should be accompanied by penalties severe enough to deter those behaviors.


John Perry Barlow, co-founder Electronic Frontier Foundation,

Scott Bradner, University Technology Security Officer, Harvard University,

Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime,

Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer (speaking as an individual),

Robin Chase, Meadow Networks,

Barbara Cherry, Professor, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Judi Clark,,

Gordon Cook, Editor & Publisher, Cook Report on Internet Protocol,

Steve Crocker, Author RFC #1, CEO Shinkuro,

Susan Estrada, President, FirstMile.US,

Harold Feld, blogger,

Tom Freeburg, CTO Memorylink,

Dewayne Hendricks, CEO Tetherless Access,

Mary Beth Henry, President of NATOA,

David S. Isenberg,, LLC & F2C:Freedom to Connect,

Jeff Jarvis,  City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism; Author of What Would Google Do,

Mitch Kapor, co-founder Electronic Frontier Foundation,

Jon Lebkowsky, Partner at Social Web Strategies and President of EFF-Austin

Larry Lessig, Professor at Harvard Law School & Director of Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics,

Sascha Meinrath, Open Technology Initiative, New America Foundation,

Jerry Michalski, independent consultant,

Michael R. Nelson, Visiting Professor, Culture and Technology Program, Georgetown University,

Craig Newmark, founder and customer service rep, Craigslist,

Elliott Noss, CEO Tucows,

Leslie Nulty, Principal, Focal Point Advisory Services/Project Coordinator, East Central Vermont Community Fiber Network Project; and Treasurer, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility,

Tim Nulty, CEO, East Central Vermont Community Fiber Network Project

Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media,

Matt Oristano, Founder of SpeedChoice broadband wireless service,

Andrew Rasiej, Personal Democracy Forum,

David P. Reed, early contributor to the Internet architecture, MIT Media Laboratory,

Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs,

Roy Russell, GoLoco, Inc.,

Doc Searls, Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society,

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody & faculty Interactive Telecommunications Program NYU,

Micah L. Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum,

Dana Spiegel, Executive Director, NYCwireless,

Aaron Swartz, Co-Founder,,

Katrin Verclas, Co-Founder,,

David Weinberger, Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society,

Stanton Williams, Board Chair, ValleyNet,

Brian Worobey, CEO,,

Esme Vos Yu, founder of,


  1. Jock Gill wrote:

    If we want to insure our competitiveness in the international landscape, it is vital that there be a high capacity public backbone that will insure every citizen a minimum of 100 megabits of symmetrical internet access. This will serve very much the same function as offering every citizen the right to choose a government operated healthcare system. It will keep the game honest.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm
  2. Brett Glass wrote:

    I agree with this comment in one respect: it (or at least some parts of it) are, in my opinion, stupid.

    Its biggest flaw: it contains a plea that the FCC prohibit network management by Internet providers. To wit, it asks the agency to “prohibit discriminatory or preferential treatment of packets based on sender, recipient or packet contents.”

    Sounds good on the surface — unless one understands its full implications.

    Since the information identifying (among other things) the protocol being used is part of the packet contents, this would make it impossible to prioritize time-sensitive traffic.

    Likewise, if providers could not route packets to a more direct connection or send them at a higher speed when they were bound to or from specific addresses, it would be impossible for a content or service provider which required enhanced performance (e.g. low latency or jitter) to pay a surcharge for higher quality of service. This restriction (which would be the equivalent of prohibiting UPS from offering “red,” “blue,” and “ground” service) would kill innovation by precluding cutting edge technologies from ever seeing the light of day. It would also effectively outlaw content delivery networks.

    The comment likewise pays homage to competition, but ignores the fact that the regulation it recommends would fall most heavily on competitive providers and likely would force them out of business, creating a duopoly.

    There seem to be quite a few people who, perhaps due to fearmongering by lobbyists for large corporations, seem bound and determined to straitjacket the Internet with regulations. Alas, they apparently forget that the Internet could not have existed were it not originally designed as a loose federation of networks, each of which was subject to DIFFERENT acceptable use policies and management strategies. (Were it not designed this way, educational institutions, government agencies, and private companies could not have signed on, because no one set of policies could have fit all of them.)

    They also appear to forget that the best way to discourage something is to regulate it. If the signatories on this statement truly wish to see universal broadband deployment, they must not “monkey wrench” this goal by hobbling the rollout of new technologies and prohibiting innovation.

    –Brett Glass, LARIAT

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 8:53 pm
  3. It is indeed important to avoid confusing “Broadband” with Internet-style connectivity. We also need to remember that the Internet is something we create by our own actions — it’s not just something we access.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 9:17 pm
  4. isen wrote:

    I would not like to see Brett Glass put out of business. I think small Internet connection providers like the one Brett runs perform a valuable service. Therefore I would favor a provision that would exempt small Internet connection providers like the one Brett operates from any rules, “prohibit[ing] discriminatory or preferential treatment of packets based on sender, recipient or packet contents.” I am not sure where “small” starts, but it’d be my hope that where small Internet connection providers have difficulty getting the “middle mile” connections to the Internet they need at reasonable prices so that they need to manage their network strictly to stay in business, that they would not be forbidden from doing that by network neutrality laws!

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 12:26 am
  5. Brett Glass wrote:

    David, while I appreciate your willingness to make a special exception for small providers, this is not the best solution. Start carving out specific exemptions, and the law begins to look like Swiss cheese and less and less like it is based on sound and fair principles. It is also unable to adapt to rapidly changing or unforeseen circumstances.

    The best solution is to encourage robust, fair competition among providers of ALL sizes, so that the market itself can deal with practices that consumers find undesirable (including ones not contemplated by your proposed regulation).

    The only government intervention that is needed at all is the prohibition of anticompetitive practices (which include — but are not limited to — price squeezing, price gouging in the “middle mile” by ILECs, and refusal to deal by backbone owners).

    By supporting so-called “network neutrality” regulation (which isn’t actually “neutral” at all — it favors large corporations such as Google), you’re playing right into the hands of those corporations. For an excellent analysis that explains why Google is supporting lobbyists who seek to undermine both copyright owners and ISPs, see Andrew Orlowski’s excellent analysis at Please do not blame me if, after reading it, you feel more like a corporate pawn than like an activist.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 1:00 am
  6. JP wrote:

    “The Internet, in contrast, is a set of public protocols for inter-networking systems that specifies how data packets are structured and processed.” No. That’s Internet Protocol. “The Internet” also includes the undelying infrastructure and endpoints, like those found in “Broadband” networks.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm
  7. CP wrote:

    Mr. Glass,
    While you do address a number of valid issues, your obvious bias is counterproductive to your arguments.
    Given your affiliation, the self-serving nature of your interest in this debate take much of the ‘wind from your sails’ so to speak. Might I suggest sticking to facts rather than supposition.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 4:02 pm
  8. Brett Glass wrote:

    Mr. "CP" (It's interesting, I think, that you are not using your full name):

    My mission, for more than 17 years, has been to make a fair wage while providing the best possible Internet service, at the best price, to as many rural users as possible.

    Regulation of my industry — especially innovation-killing regulation such as is proposed in the comment above — would not only destroy thousands of worthy small businesses like my own, eliminating competition and jobs; it woul also leave many users without access altogether. And this is fact, not supposition.

    The false "supposition" which is made in the document above is that unless ISPs are regulated, they will somehow do something evil. This is tantamount to saying that because you have the ability to commit murder, you must be jailed immediately even if you have never contemplated such a thing.

    It is worth remembering that the Internet grew and flourished due to a lack of regulation. But now that large corporations such as Google see an advantage in it, they are lobbying to regulate it in a way that serves their interests. (You will note that many of the initial signatories above work for organizations which have received substantial amounts of money from Google.)

    Regulating the Internet to suit Google (which, lest we forget, IS spying on users; it is now the largest purveyor of spyware tracking "cookies" on the Internet and is growing its monopolistic 80% market share in Internet search) will kill competition and innovation. It must not happen. Again, read the article by Andrew Orlowski cited above, and also another article by the same author at

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 6:11 pm
  9. Most ILECs do not make the distinction between “broadband” and customer Internet access. These two elements are usually combined and sold together as one product by ILECs.

    We do not need multiple sets of infrastructure, we need multiple service providers. If the infrastructure is strongly regulated by those who understand the need for regulation, and the services provided over that infrastructure are unregulated and available at the same cost to all, competition will flourish. Unfortunately, today we have neither situation. The infrastructure is poorly regulated and we keep trying to regulate the services provided over it. This results in monopolistic practices, expensive lobbying, and poor customer service.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 9:56 pm
  10. Jim Fleming wrote:

    I am currently writing a book: “The Big Lie Society – 52 People You Never Want to Allow Near Your Children’s Network(s)”

    As a protocol inventor, designer, developer, etc. I am fascinated by your
    apparent lack of knowledge of modern technology. Much of that technology
    has been designed to route around The Big Lie Society.

    I have a feeling that you equate
    The Big Lie Society and their
    groupies to be “The Internet”.
    I suppose you could also call them
    The Tribe, The Clique, etc. and point
    out their common bound, ancient
    out-dated protocols and technology.
    One could also observe their archaic,
    unfair, one-party governance structures.

    Could it be that the U.S. Government,
    in the form of the FCC and other
    agencies, has finally started to wake
    up to the burden that The Big Lie
    Society places on the American People ?
    Could it be that the FCC wants to try
    to help the America People break free
    from the shackles of The Big Lie
    Society ?

    Are you concerned that The Big Lie
    Society along with other groups like
    The Taliban, are best handled by
    ignoring them and routing around them?
    Could it be that modern technology
    will allow the American People to
    collectively decide to route around
    The Big Lie Society ? Could it be
    that the U.S. FCC wants to help
    empower the American People to make
    that choice vs. having all decisions
    dictated to them by The Big Lie
    Society ?

    Are you concerned that the American
    People will collectively choose to
    have BETTER network experiences
    without the meddling of The Big Lie
    Society ?

    “IT” Seeks Overall Control – America
    better wake up and route around “IT”

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 11:03 pm
  11. I don’t want to belabor the ISP discussion. The concept of an ISP is associated with the old style telecom funding. If we fund connectivity as infrastructure it becomes a nonissue – see for more.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 12:22 am
  12. Alex Goldman wrote:

    We need to continue to allow innovation and not allow the internet to be curtailed.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 1:31 pm
  13. Amy D. Wohl wrote:

    The Internet has been the lifeblood of innovation for more than 15 years. To fail to allow it to grow, to curtail its open access to even the smallest entrepreneurs, at the earliest stages of their businesses, is to risk the loss of precious concepts like Google and Facebook as well as thousands of much smaller companies, no less valuable to their clients.

    Support for open access to a continuously evolving Internet is vital to our continuing health as a nation.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 4:04 pm
  14. DAVID MILTON wrote:

    The Internet is by its birth and development, an instrument of communication and expression which is OF US, BY US and FOR US. It is essential that we actively promote the most capable and ubuquitous Internet we can, and locally to the U.S.A, continue to insist on government whose intents, purposes and action are again, Of Us, By Us and For Us.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7:35 am
  15. Everything in the initial paper I agree with, I have an additional thought:

    Broadband Infrastructure CAN deliver the capability to utilize the Internet and make various information transactions / exchanges possible WHEN it exists in Places that want to interact.

    Where IT’s not, you can’t.

    How can the FCC upshot assure:
    - That access to internet resources is ubiquitos.
    - That providers design the integration of their networks into the fabric of our communities in ways that serve all citizens rather than merely those whose subscriptions will garner the most PPV & VOD transactions for the operator.
    - That a dialogue be mandated between ICT regulators and administrators and Urban & Economic Development Planners so that the ICT infrastructure develops in concert with the development planning of communities.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7:35 pm