A Message from Vint Cerf, 
Marconi Society Chair

Is Net Neutrality Dead? Now What?

The decision by the FCC on a partisan vote to reclassify the Internet as a pure information service, placing it again under Title I of the Telecommunications Act (as amended in 1996), has a number of potentially undesirable side effects.
In December, a number of Internet pioneers including myself and Marconi Fellows Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Whitfield Diffie, Martin E. Hellman and Ronald Rivest, wrote an open letter to the FCC requesting that the group cancel its vote on net neutrality in order to evaluate input from experts in the field about the technical flaws in the proposed Order. The FCC ignored our request, triggering potential regulatory, as well as technical issues.
From a regulatory perspective, the reclassification to Title I takes away any basis for successful enforcement of net neutrality principles by the FCC. An earlier Supreme Court ruling demonstrated that the FCC needs a legislated basis for taking enforcement actions and Title I refers to unregulated services. While the Internet Service Providers may not take advantage of the demise of enforceable net neutrality, there is always a risk that some may adopt discriminatory or anti-competitive  business practices.
On the other side, there were concerns about the use of Title II (telecommunications) in the Telecom Act to enforce net neutrality. There are many provisions in Title II that the FCC refrained from enforcing because they were not germane to net neutrality and those provisions might be invoked by subsequent FCCs. This is not an idle concern as we have just seen a change in FCC leadership lead to the reversal of a previous FCC ruling taking Internet from Title I to Title II.
A third potential outcome of this most recent FCC decision may be legislation leading to a new "Internet" Title in the Telecom Act that could solidify net neutrality principles in an enforceable framework that does not risk the application of inappropriate elements of Title II. While we still do not know exactly what this title will entail, it looks like a promising alternative because it would be designed with the Internet in mind. There is, however, an alternative outcome in which the legislation takes jurisdiction for Internet from the FCC and places it in the Federal Trade Commission where, in theory, anti-competitive behaviors would be dealt with. It is not clear whether such an outcome would protect the interest of users satisfactorily.
There is also a move underway to review the FCC reclassification action using a relatively old provision in law called the Congressional Review Act that would allow the Congress to reconsider the FCC action. 

If you are as concerned as I am about the future of the Internet, I urge you to contact your elected representative and ask them to support an open Internet.
In addition, last week a number of parties, including Mozilla, The Open Internet Institute, and the states of California, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and the District of Columbia entered the fray with lawsuits against the FCC's order.  This week, the Governor of Montana signed an order making the state the first to implement net neutrality after the FCC repeal.
As Denelle Dixon, Mozilla's chief business and legal officer says, " Ending net neutrality could end the Internet as we know it. "
My conclusion: this story is not yet over.
This is a personal opinion, not the position or opinion of the Marconi Society.

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Save the Dates

May 3, 2018
National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the National Building Museum in Washington D. C. will include Marconi Fellows  Arogyaswami Paulraj and Ron Rivest.

May 11, 2018
IEEE Medal of Honor Ceremony at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco honoring Marconi Fellow Brad Parkinson with the IEEE Medal of Honor.  If you would like to join the Marconi Society contingent at the ceremony, please contact Hatti Hamlin at hattihamlin@marconisociety.org for details.

October 2, 2018
Marconi Society Annual Symposium, Villa Griffone, Bologna, Italy: honoring the 2018 Marconi Fellow (check website for more details in spring.)

October 2, 2018
Marconi Society Awards Dinner, Bologna, Italy: honoring the 2018 Marconi Fellow and Young Scholars (check website for more details in spring.)


Established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio, the Marconi Society promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize and Young Scholar Awards. More information may be found at  www.marconisociety.org .

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