Which is what makes creating a new broadband Internet alternative so compelling. Because the airwaves are not privately owned, and are provided under terms established by the FCC, the FCC could demand that any broadband Internet service created in the 700 MHz band offer truly neutral access to all content providers. Not only would this provide many Americans with a neutral alternative for Internet access -- in the event that wire-line and cable broadband operators move to discriminatory systems -- it would also put increased competitive pressure on those traditional operators to avoid the creation of any network that limits consumer choice.
Technology companies, wireless entrepreneurs, and public interest advocates have also asked the FCC to ensure that some portion of the spectrum be reserved for use by broadband operators seeking to create a wholesale model. A single, wholesale provider of broadband spectrum could spawn scores of competing retail broadband operators around the country, further diversifying a broadband market badly in need of competition.
We have arrived at a unique moment in the history of the Internet. With a single stroke, the FCC has the opportunity to bolster the competition that spurs innovation in the digital age, and to ensure that Americans continue to have access to the neutral, open Internet on which we've all come to rely.
Leslie Harris is the Executive Director of the Center for Democracy & Technology (http://www.cdt.org), a nonprofit advocacy group that works to preserve democratic values and constitutional freedoms in the Internet age. Visit CDT's blog, PolicyBeta (http://blog.cdt.org) for regular updates on high-tech policy issues.