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Open Internet Has a Posse

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, September 21 2009

We mentioned this down below, but it's worth devoting its own post to. In conjunction with chairman Julius Genachowski speech on net neutrality at Brookings this morning, the Federal Communications Commission launched a site dedicated to the open Internet, online at OpenInternet.gov.

The site is a dead ringer for many others in the Obama universe. A naval blue color scheme. Graceful gradient backgrounds. And blocky serif font buttons imploring you to do things like, "Watch the Chairman's Full Speech." And you might want to do that, because there isn't much else to do on OpenInternet.gov on this, launch day. Genachowski readily admits in a welcome video that the site is still in beta -- though it's striking to see the FCC, traditionally one of your more insular, impenetrable of government agencies, host a collaborative Join the Discussion online forum, here on the subject of the chairman's speech.

And actually, it still would be striking to see that, because as the chairman's office proceeds with carving out their little corner of the Internet with modern, interactive sites like Broadband.gov and OpenInternet.gov, the agency's official online presence languishes. (Why the two different new sites? Simply put, the former is dedicated to the question of how much Internet, and the latter to the question of what kind of Internet.) Consider for a moment that while the Open Internet site offers the public Genachowski's speech in HTML and video format, complemented with an online forum, the official agency FCC.gov site offers his address in what might pass for its own special sort of multimedia: Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat PDF. There are other signs that Genachowski's push on OpenInternet.gov is secondary to the main show. Since the FCC hasn't taken up matters of open Internet as a regulatory question, "comments and posts made on this site at this time," reads the Join the Discussion rules, "may not be included in the Commission's official record of its proceedings."

Clearly, bringing more Internet to the United States and preserving the openness that has made the Internet such a powerful force for change are chairman Genachowski's priorities. What's still an open question is whether he can win over the rest of the Federal Communications Commission as he aims to win over the country.