Dear Colleague Letter from Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI).
Re: Network neutrality on the internet.
Date: September 2, 2003.
Source: Office of Rep. Boucher.

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Rep. Boucher


September 2, 2003

Dear Colleague:

We invite you to join us in sending the attached letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, asking that he preserve the openness of the Internet that consumers enjoy today.

The rapidly developing broadband world will eventually feature a myriad of computing devices that are simultaneously and constantly connected to the Internet, working and communicating together on the consumerís behalf. Personal digital assistants and "smart" appliances are just two examples of the types of devices that will need unfettered access to "always on" high-speed connections in order to bring new services and capabilities into the home. Broadband connections allow for a programmable environment in which computers, devices, and services will have the ability to stay in touch constantly in a seamless, unfettered way.

Congress and the FCC have long held that with respect to the Internet, freedom from interference by network operators is critical to fostering innovation and gains in productivity and economic activity. The Internet has been successful in the narrowband era largely because of guaranteed openness through which consumers can access lawful content and applications of their own choosing and because of the ability to use devices connected to that network based on their needs and desires. But without such protections in the telephone and cable broadband world, consumers may be deprived of these freedoms.

Interference and access restrictions imposed by network operators can limit technological innovation, stifle the spread of information, and prevent the use of yet-to-be-invented devices that will make our lives easier and more fruitful. Imagine a broadband provider blocking or slowing access to and instead directing you quickly to the providerís affiliated commerce site, or preventing the use of an Internet device on the network. Both scenarios are real possibilities if the FCC doesnít follow its 30 year-long tradition of assuring open networks by pursuing a policy of openness in the broadband era.

Robust broadband services are essential for enabling and encouraging the development of new applications and services that improve worker productivity, enrich personal lives, and business operations, and deliver benefits to every sector of society and the economy. Supporters of this concept include, Apple Computer, Yahoo!, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers. To sign on to the letter to Chairman Powell endorsing these time-tested principles, please contact Matt Trebon (Congressman Ron Kind at 6-8128) or Hillary Brill (Congressman Rick Boucher at 5-1390). Deadline for signatures is Friday, September 12, 2003.

Thank you for the consideration.


  Ron Kind
Member of Congress

New Democrat Coalition
Congressman Rick Boucher
Member of Congress

Congressional Internet Caucus

The Honorable Michael K. Powell
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Powell:

We write to express our interest in the continued ability of Internet users to have unfettered access to the content of their choice.

Congress has long recognized the importance of maintaining open communications networks. More than thirty years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) affirmed this objective by holding that telephone companies cannot bar consumers from attaching a device to the network as long as it does not harm that network. Resulting from this farsighted rule were such inventions as the fax machine and the computer modem, which have contributed enormously to unprecedented economic growth and dramatic innovations that have promoted American prosperity.

In the absence of assurance that principles of open network architectures will be applied to both telephone and cable broadband, concerns have been voiced that network operators will act to limit consumer activity and to limit access to content, not because of a need to manage the network to assure functionality, but instead because of a desire to favor content affiliated with the broadband provider. Such behavior would reduce consumersí opportunities for education, commerce, and entertainment, as well as inhibit the innovation of future Internet network products.

The nation is at a pivotal point in the evolution of the Internet. The FCC is debating a number of policy decisions that will have a long-term effect on both the content of the medium and its potential utility in our lives. The Internet has been successful in the narrowband era largely because it is an open medium where consumers can access lawful content and applications of their own choosing, using devices connected to the network based on their needs and desires. Applying this unfettered access to broadband connections will confirm and continue a three decade long tradition of assuring openness of content accessibility and facilitate new generations of innovative Internet based products and services.

The FCC has the responsibility of acting to address harm where it occurs. However, as a regulatory body, the FCC has the greater responsibility of implementing rules and policies to ensure that those harms never occur in the first instance. The time for the FCC to act by appropriate regulation to prevent that harm is now. Because the FCC has for decades pursued and achieved an open environment in the narrowband world, it should not prove difficult to continue to preserve the openness of the Internet in the broadband environment. Please inform us of your thoughts on these important matters.