Net Neutrality

Not just a Republican thing

Protecting the Internet from the heavy hand of government regulation is not just a Republican goal. The following excerpt is from a 1999 speech by former FCC Chairman William E. Kennard (appointed by President Bill Clinton): What I would like to do is take the opportunity here today to talk to you a little bit about why I believe the best way to achieve these values is to resist the urge to regulate right now. One reason is because of my vision that we will have multiple broadband pipes — cable, DSL, broadband wireless, satellite, terrestrial broadcast. That is why I think the debate that we are having today about unbundling and access to this cable pipe is fundamentally different Read More ›

Michael Powell on reclassifying broadband

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, reacting to a proposal to reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications” service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, in an interview with Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post: Here’s the bottom line, to talk about going to Title II is talking about doing something relatively epic, novel and unprecedented. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t do it, but I might challenge it. * * * * I hate the idea of Title II for broadband. I think we would really regret it because for a regulator versed in what it means, it means thousands and thousands of pages that would fall into this space and we would spend our lifetime trying to clean it Read More ›

Battle of the Internet

A federal takeover of the Internet, according to President Obama’s former special assistant for science, technology and innovation policy, is as simple as formally relabelling Internet access services as “telecommunications services,” rather than “information services,” as they are called now. Susan Crawford argues that this wouldn’t be unprecedented at all. Until August 2005, the commission required that companies providing high-speed access to the Internet over telephone lines not discriminate among Web sites * * * * But under the Bush administration the F.C.C. deregulated high-speed Internet providers, arguing that cable Internet access was different from the kind of high-speed Internet access provided by phone companies * * * * This was a radical move, because it reversed the long-held assumption Read More ›

FCC gets squashed

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the authority the FCC used to regulate Internet access providers is very limited. The ruling is obviously a victory for broadband Internet access providers. But it is also a victory for the rest of us. As the court noted, the legal interpretation the FCC fought to defend “would virtually free the Commission from its congressional tether.” In Comcast v. FCC, the court said it was okay for Comcast to discriminate against peer-to-peer file sharing as necessary to manage scarce network capacity. The opinion was written by Judge David S. Tatel, a Clinton nominee. The question before the court was whether the FCC has any jurisdiction to regulate Internet access Read More ›

Why antagonize China?

From George Gilder’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal, Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president’s friends at Google are hectoring China on Internet policy. Although commanding twice as many Internet users as we do, China originates fewer viruses and scams than does the U.S. and with Taiwan produces comparable amounts of Internet gear. As an authoritarian regime, it obviously will not be amenable to an open and anonymous net regime. Protecting information on the Internet is a responsibility of U.S. corporations and their security tools, not the State Department. The full column is here.

Study: Net neutrality regulation would cost jobs

A study by Larry F. Darby, Joseph P. Fuhr, Jr., and Stephen B. Pociask of the American Consumer Institute concludes: Historical data suggest that for every $1 billion in revenue, “core” network companies provided 2,329 jobs, while non-network “edge” companies provided 1,199 (about half as many). This indicates that Net Neutrality rules that reduce revenues and growth for network companies, and transfer benefits (revenue or growth prospects) to non-network companies, are a barrier to job creation. Read the study here.

Duopoly shumopoly

Broadband regulation is justified — according to Lawrence E. Strickling, who is the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information — because a recent FCC report indicates that “[a]t most 2 providers of fixed broadband services will pass most homes. Furthermore, “50-80% of homes may get speeds they need only from one provider.”
Christine A. Varney, the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust concurs, noting

It is premature to predict whether the wireless broadband firms will be able to discipline the behavior of the established wireline providers, but early developments are mildly encouraging.

These comments essentially parrot the views of some left-wing advocacy groups who are trying to engineer a revolution in communications policy, such as Free Press and Public Knowledge.

Read More ›

Backtracking on net neutrality?

At CNET News, Larry Downes writes that the Obama administration has lost some of its enthusiasm for aggressive regulatory intervention of the Internet. The latest evidence, according to Downes, is a comment this week by White House deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin noting that the FCC has yet to determine whether Net neutrality is needed to preserve the open Internet. The administration is clearly backtracking. But why? Part of the reason is some unexpected political pressure, including a letter signed by 72 congressional Democrats opposing the FCC’s proposed rules soon after they were announced. But the bigger explanation is the growing priority within the administration for nationwide, affordable broadband service. In the course of preparing the national broadband plan, mandated by Read More ›

Evidence on net neutrality

A collection of essays published by the American Consumer Institute includes one by me entitled “Net Neutrality Regulation Would Impose Consumer Welfare Losses,” beginning on page 47. The essays were the subject of a Capitol Hill event yesterday which featured remarks by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). According to The Hill’s technology blog, By glancing at the authors, it’s no surprise that the 14-essay pamphlet’s thesis is that net neutrality regulations would ultimately be harmful for consumers and thwart innovation. The table of contents has familiar names: Randolph May (Free State Foundation), Wayne Leighton (Empiris), John Mayo (Georgetown University) and Hance Haney (Discovery Institute), to name just a few. You most likely already know their positions. Read More ›

Whoops! Berkman study shows “open access” reduces broadband consumption

A paper by George S. Ford at the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Public Policy Studies shows that a correct interpretation of a study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University is that “open access” does not stimulate broadband consumption — as its authors claim — but reduces it. Sound empirical research of treatments and outcomes requires the researcher to ignore the observed outcomes in formulating the hypothesis tests and choosing the empirical methodologies. Yet, the Berkman Study peeks at the outcome and then tries to formulate some procedure to attribute observed differences to one factor or another. In other words, throughout the Berkman Study, the authors are separating the sick rats from the well Read More ›