Policy Takes Center Stage at CES 2010

Most years, the Consumer Electronic Show is known for groundbreaking new gadgets and awe-inspiring display booths. This year was no different. But unlike other years, those gadgets had to share the spotlight with critical policy discussions taking place around what the future of the Internet should look like – and more specifically how the federal government will treat it. Panels and discussions ranged from the role of technology in energy and education policy to the National Broadband Plan and economic recovery.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stole the spotlight on Friday with a one-on-one conversation with CEA President Gary Shapiro. Shapiro wasted no time by jumping right into the topic of the open Internet with his first question. Genachowski answered by stating that an open Internet policy should have very well defined goals, including the promotion of innovation, investment and the free flow of expression.

The free and open Internet that we enjoy today facilitates all of these ideas. The Internet has provided us enormous innovation over the past few years in the form of mobile apps, telepresence, smart grids, and distance learning. The free flow of expression was on full display during last year’s presidential campaign, leading to the election of the first “Broadband President.” And all of this could not have occurred without unprecedented investment in broadband networks by the private sector.

Chairman Genachowski acknowledged that the goal of universal broadband would only be realized by “a tremendous amount of investment, overwhelmingly from the private sector.” He then expressed the importance of continuing to promote this level of investment. It was really good to hear the Chairman talk about the future of the Internet in the context of recognizing the enormous level of capital being invested each year by America’s broadband providers

So we think it’s fair to question the intent of the Net neutrality principles being discussed currently by the FCC as they could certainly have an adverse effect on the private investments the Chairman referred to on Friday. In fact a growing chorus of voices has expressed the potential negative effects and unintended consequences that increased regulation could have on broadband investment.

While at CES, NextGenWeb caught up with one of those voices – Larry Downes, a nonresident fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society. Click below to see his interview.

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