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CHAPTER III - Moving Forward: Principles for Regulation

Because it is easy for ideas about the future of the Internet to get incredibly abstract, to provide some structure and clarity the FOCAS participants developed a set of principles for Internet policy that reinforce important values.

The emphasis on principles rather than prescriptions underscores the idea that only principles can be lasting, as specific policy proposals can quickly become outdated. They are “aspirational principles with limited structural requirements,” New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute Director Alan Davidson said.

In order to strengthen the Internet and protect the freedoms enjoyed by users in its earliest, most idealized iterations, the following principles are aimed at moving future policy decisions in the right direction. The principles are written with the following values in mind: Maintaining freedom of expression and creativity, protecting a certain level of individual privacy (that individuals should know what is happening with their data) and universal access—the notion that everyone should be able to have fast, quality access to an unfettered Internet.

The principles are as follows:

Competition and Markets

  • Regulate to open markets, never to close markets;
  • Allow all firms to aspire to market success; never help a firm maintain a monopoly;
  • Enable permissionless innovation.


  • Use competition or subsidies to provide everyone access to fast, quality connectivity, all public information, collective action, all means of expression, and the ability to learn, share and speak with one another;
  • Act quickly to correct market failures, particularly if they are disadvantageous to the already disadvantaged;
  • Seek interoperability to extend scale and network effects to new entrants.

Security and Free Speech

  • Ensure sufficient information and reasonable oversight to instill trust that any government surveillance protects civil liberties;
  • Limit intermediary liability for third-party speech in order to protect free expression;
  • Maintain transparency and accountability around the collection and use of private data.

Consistent application of these principles is also important. The guidelines and indicators include:

  • Do not compromise principles, uphold them all;
  • When deciding whether or how to regulate, these principles should guide the decision.

“If you’re a regulator, people are always asking you to compromise on your principles,” former FCC Chair Reed Hundt says. “They’re saying things like, we’ll give you interoperability if you don't insist on opening the market in which we’re operating. Don’t compromise [in the above principles] means don’t strike those deals.”

Google’s Matt Cutts defaults toward openness and accountability: “In a post-Snowden world, people have lost a lot of faith in their government, [and don’t believe] that they’re acting appropriately. So government should provide sufficient information and oversight to make sure citizens are adequately informed. You should be able to give enough of the outlines so people are not scared, sufficient oversight so that you’ve reassured the people that the people in government are doing their jobs,” said Cutts.

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