The FCC has taken an important step today in helping keep the Internet open, announcing plans to formalize into law a set of broadband policy principles first unveiled in 2005. These include four separate principles which essentially say network operators cannot prevent users from accessing lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, or prohibit them from attaching non-harmful devices to the network.

The guidelines were never formalized and have only been enforced on a case-by-case basis, however, leading some to contend that the FCC has no real authority on the matter. Now, a bill pending in congress should give the FCC that authority -- provided it gets enough votes in favor.

In addition to potentially taking these principles of network openness into official regulation, FCC's chairman Julius Genachowski called for two additional rules to be included in the proposal. The first would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for "reasonable" network management; and the second would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.

Genachowski also wants to clarify that these principles apply to all platforms, from wireless access to wired Internet service. The chairman will formally unveil these suggestions at the FCC's October meeting via a notice of proposed rulemaking. Interested parties and the public in general will then have an opportunity to share their thoughts, including what they consider to be reasonable network management.