Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps states that all is not well in Washington when it comes to technology policy. He argues that the continued trend in media consolidation, with fewer organizations owning more and more properties that allow them to control both content and distribution, will be further exacerbated by recent decisions by the FCC. In August 2005, the FCC reclassified broadband as Title I, Information Services rather than Title II, Telecommunication Services. This decision rendered the non-discrimination obligations attached to telecom traffic no longer applicable to broadband. Commercial providers can now choose to implement traffic management policies, and thereby restrict how individuals use the Internet.
Mr. Copps acknowledges there is no guarantee that a concentration of providers with limited competition will implement traffic management policies and restrict how individuals use the Internet, but history has shown that when organizations have both the technology and the commercial incentive they will try. In response to the August 2005 decision by the FCC Mr. Copps and fellow commissioners drafted a statement of principles that outlines four principles to encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of public Internet. This statement planted the seed for what has now become a national discussion on net-neutrality.
Mr. Copps characterizes net neutrality as the "third rail" of the larger debate over media consolidation. He strongly believes that both of these issues pose a significant threat to innovation, diversity, and the independent voices critical to maintaining a robust civic dialogue in any democratic society. While it is Washington's responsibility to maintain openness, he believes it is the responsibility of the high tech community to play an active role in the process to insure that voices from both sides are heard, not just those of the well funded vested interests.
Michael Copps was recently nominated for a second term as a member of the Federal Communications Commission. Previously, Mr. Copps served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In that role, he worked to improve market access and market share for nearly every sector of American industry, including information technologies and telecommunications. Mr. Copps has also held roles as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Basic Industries, as a staff member for Senator Fritz Hollings, as Director of Government Affairs for a large company, and as Senior VP for Legislative Affairs at a national trade association. Mr. Copps, received a B.A. from Wofford College and earned a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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