March 16, 2010

FCC: For God's Sake Don't Mention "Net Neutrality" in the Broadband Plan!

Greetings. The newly released FCC Broadband Plan contains a great deal of discussion in its more than 360 pages. There will be a lot to say about the specific provisions and recommendations of the Plan.

But it's something missing from the Plan that is a real eyebrow-raiser.

As far as I can determine, nowhere in the entire text of the Plan will you find the terms "Net Neutrality" or "Network Neutrality" -- a rather stunning development.

To be specific, the word "neutrality" apparently appears only once in the Plan, as in "budget neutrality." The word "neutral" appears a number of times, but none of these relate directly to the usual universe of Net Neutrality discussions as commonly understood, as far as I can tell. The "closest" usages I located are discussions of "neutral rights of way" (relating to broadband construction), remarks regarding a "neutral host facility" associated with public safety networks, and the term "network-neutral" specifically related to proposed set-top boxes (i.e., physical boxes that could connect to different networks).

If the Plan ever uses the terms "neutral" or "neutrality" in manners that most observers would consider to be related to common Net Neutrality discussions, especially associated with ISP operational issues, I didn't see such instances. Please let me know if you can find them!

Now, one might argue that the term Net Neutrality has over time come to encompass an ever widening range of specific issues, and the FCC has increasingly been favoring the use of terms such as "open," "transparent," and "nondiscriminatory" in preference to "neutrality" in their statements.

But the Commission itself has discussed the need to operate networks in a "neutral" manner. "Network [or Net] Neutrality" is the common term used to refer to the associated issues in public discourse, analysis, news stories, legislation, position papers, speeches, and in virtually all other contexts.

Net Neutrality is by far one of the most common search terms used by persons concerned about broadband policy issues.

Even if the FCC preferred not to use the "Net Neutrality" terminology in a descriptive sense in the Plan, it seems remarkable that they chose not to at least note the popular usage of these terms by consumers, media, legislators, and the like, and to explain (for the sake of searchers using the terms if nothing else) why the Commission preferred not to use such terminology in their own detailed discussions and recommendations.

I find it difficult to imagine how the terms Network Neutrality or Net Neutrality could possibly be missing from as important and encompassing a document as the FCC's Broadband Plan by happenstance.

It seems far more likely that a specific decision was made beforehand to avoid the use of these terms in any way (or that they were purged from drafts during the editorial process).

To be clear, I'm not suggesting any conspiracy or Orwellian attempt at Newspeak. But I do believe that the FCC Broadband Plan has done a disservice to the public by not at least acknowledging the existence of terminology used by the entire world -- including the U.S. Congress and Barack Obama -- to commonly reference these related issues.


Posted by Lauren at March 16, 2010 01:05 PM | Permalink
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