On November 15, 2010, the Centre for Information Policy Leadership filed comments with the Department of Commerce in response to the Department’s Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) on the Global Free Flow of Information on the Internet.  The NOI was issued pursuant to an examination by the Department’s Internet Policy Task Force of issues related to restrictions on information flows on the Internet.  The NOI poses wide-ranging questions related to why such restrictions were instituted; the impact restrictions may have on innovation, economic development, global trade and investment; and how best to deal with any negative effects.  In the NOI, the Department acknowledges the benefits that businesses, emerging entrepreneurs and consumers derive from the ability to transmit information quickly and efficiently both domestically and internationally.  It also recognizes the integral role the free flow of information plays in promoting economic growth and democratic values essential to free markets and free societies.  The Department also articulated goals such as helping industry and other stakeholders operate in diverse Internet environments, and identifying policies that will advance economic growth and create job opportunities for Americans.

The Centre’s response focused on four key points, which are summarized below.

  • The response encouraged the Department of Commerce to lead development of an integrated, coordinated approach to information policy.  Consistent U.S. policies would support the ongoing work of businesses, trade associations and advocates to address these issues.  The Centre’s response further emphasized the need for the United States to assume global leadership in developing and implementing policy that promotes the free flow of data.
  • The Centre reminded the Department that information policy should focus on data and its application rather than on any particular technology.  It pointed out that technology-oriented solutions can have distorting effects on development, and that emerging technologies and applications often outstrip the pace of legislation and regulation.
  • The response emphasized that removing impediments to the free flow of information is an infrastructure issue that must be a top priority for the government.  Just as open, well-functioning highways, train networks and waterways that keep goods moving to where they are needed are necessary to the viability and growth of business, the implementation of national policies to ensure robust, unimpeded flow of data to where it can support innovation and creation of new, 21st century jobs is imperative to maintaining U.S. economic leadership.
  • Finally, the Centre urged that the United States must maintain a leadership role in international forums where issues affecting the global free flow of information are addressed and resolved.  It encouraged an allocation of resources that reflects the need for a U.S. presence at such forums, with funding to provide for knowledgeable, experienced staff and ongoing, in-person engagement.

The Department of Commerce will review comments it receives on the NOI and intends to publish a report based on that feedback that will contribute to the Administration’s domestic policy and international involvement in these issues.

The Centre’s submitted comments are available on its website at www.informationpolicycentre.com.