Net Neutrality Advocates Join Obama Team

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Barack, Good Decisions, Internet, Technology

If you don’t know why this is good news, imagine paying for the internet as if it were cable. Sounds ridiculous right? Paying for specific websites within the internet?

Well, that’s been pushed by folks inside and outside of the FCC and now it seems like those who want to keep the internet free and open are set to take over.

From Wired:

The Obama-Biden transition team on Friday named two long-time net neutrality advocates to head up its Federal Communications Commission Review team.

Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and Kevin Werbach, a former FCC staffer, organizer of the annual tech conference Supernova, and a Wharton professor, will lead the Obama-Biden transition team’s review of the FCC.

Why should you love these people? Well, listen to what Crawford had to say this year…

This March at a telecom policy conference in Hollywood, for example, Crawford bluntly told Ambassador Richard Russell, the White House’ associate director on science and technology policy, that he lived in a fantasyland when he asserted that the United States’ roll-out of broadband is going well.

“I think it’s magical thinking to imagine that we’re somehow doing fine here, and I just want to make sure that we recognize that even the [International Telecommunications Union] says that between 1999 and 2006 we skipped form third to 20th place in penetration,” she noted acidly at the annual Tech Policy Summit, a gathering of top officials in the world of tech policy (of which Wired.com was a participant and sponsor.)

“We’re not doing at all well for reasons that mostly have to do with the fact that we failed to have a US industrial policy pushing forward high-speed internet access penetration, and there’s been completely inadequate competition in this country for high speed internet access,” she said.

And in a final introductory statement during her talk (that’s likely to send shivers down the spines of telecom company executives) she said that she believes internet access is a “utility.”

“This is like water, electricity, sewage systems: Something that each and all Americans need to succeed in the modern era. We’re doing very badly, and we’re in a dismal state,” she said at the time.

Basically, they’re realists and they get the fact that every other country in the world is treating the internet as if it’s a utility and if we don’t do the same, we’re screwed.

More as it develops…


This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 and is filed under Barack, Good Decisions, Internet, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Net Neutrality Advocates Join Obama Team”

  1. kranky kritter Says:

    Ahhh, I knew it wouldn’t be too long before someone began insisting that we needed way more regulation for the internet. For our own good, of course.

    It’s a huge and irresistable target. The internet must be equal for everyone. Broadband is a basic human right! Just wait ’til all the special interest competitors of various types get their hands on this stuff. Soon your bill will be x dollars per month plus an $8 cut for uncle sam, and the quick gumming up of all sorts of free downloading and file sharing.

    But remember, if we don’t make the internet a regulated utility, we’re “screwed.” This must be one of those special moments where, just for a second, progressives pretend to care about markets and competition. As a matter of convenience. No worries, amnesia always ensues.

    Anyone else out there wonder why the measure called “penetration” is the one Crawford is using? How much you wanna bet that penetration is a function of population density, and that global leaders in this measure are the densely populated regions of Europe? I’d be in for $20, but then I’d be one of those awful folks killing hope with mere facts.

  2. blackoutyears Says:

    I’m a little worried. If we don’t turn the internet over completely to private companies sans regulation we won’t have anything for the government to bail out in twenty years.

  3. Brett Glass Says:

    Susan Crawford doesn’t “get” the Internet. It was intentionally designed NOT to be a “utility,” but rather a loosely federated collection of independent networks bound together by a common protocol. In fact, its original designers made much of the fact that it was to be very different from the Bell System — in other words, not a public utility with big monopolies and regulators (who would then be subject to “regulatory capture.” No one company or institution could “own” the Internet.

    But Crawford isn’t a technologist; she’s a lawyer. And lawyers are ensured of full employment by regulation, because they can make millions representing clients before regulatory bodies, interpreting regulations, filing lawsuits based on regulation, etc. — and so, naturally enough, they are biased toward it.

    The regulation that Crawford favors (and she has argued for it by making false statements to Congress) would be horrible for the Internet. It would ensure that no independent ISP could survive; everyone would HAVE to get Internet from a telephone company or a cable company. You couldn’t pay more for more bandwidth if you needed it (even though it’s natural, because more bandwidth costs the provider more money)… somehow, that’s not egalitarian enough. Crawford isn’t a realist; she’s a lobbyist. And woe betide us if we give lobbyists control of our country….

  4. George Mauer Says:

    Holy moly, you guys (kranky and co) are just really wrong on this. How many serious technologist figures can you find that don’t support Net Neutrality? How many programmers? How many tech historians? How about looking at Denmark or Finland which have the highest internet penetration.

    And Mr. Glass, yes you’re technically correct that the Internet was not designed originally to be a utility. But you know what? It also wasn’t designed to stream video, or to download large files, or for websites that pull from multiple sources and feed back to the server like the one you’re on now. It was meant to share lab reports basically, that’s it. To quote Vint Cerf – you know, the father of the internet guy – it was “an experiment that sort-of never ended”.

    But really what it was meant for is beside the point entirely. Its more about what we need. Currently we need the internet to be a widely available, uncensored, and responsive utility. It’s the world’s largest repository of knowledge, its all but impossible to stay relevant in this world without access to it. So yeah, it has quickly become a right.

  5. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Currently we need the internet to be a widely available, uncensored, and responsive utility.

    Like we need broadcast airwaves to be uncensored? The problem with net neutrality is that you set up a federal commission to oversee the internet, like the FCC does with airwaves. This paves the way for government regulation of content. If the democrats appoint officials to the FCC you may see regulation of political speech during elections, or if Republicans appoint them, you may see regulation of obscenity.

    If there were a constitutional amendment prohibiting any censorship of content, then I would support it. Plus you have to compensate the people who laid the pipe (I’m not referring to internet porn here).

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