“Net neutrality” is one of those brilliant coinages, like chained CPI, with a technocratic sheen designed to deter ordinary citizens from taking interest in policy proposals of fundamental importance to them.
Bill Moyers interviews David Carr of the New York Times and Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, about the how the biggest service providers like Comcast and Verizon have been pushing hard to balkanize the Internet by creating more stratified service tiers based on speed of access. This change is anticipated to hurt both lower income consumers and specialized websites, like not-for-profits, cultural and scientific sites, and…independent blogs.
So who did Obama put in charge of the FCC? Tom Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist. And of course, Wheeler hand-waves and professes that he just can’t oppose those powerful operators, he lost in court. Susan Crawford debunks that idea:
BILL MOYERS: And Tom Wheeler says that, look, the FCC’s tried twice to rewrite the rules of Net neutrality. And the appeals court, federal appeals court, has turned thumbs down twice. He’s saying, I’m only doing what I can do to write rules that are consistent with what the court has said.
SUSAN CRAWFORD: What’s not right about that is that he can do something. The FCC has tried to simultaneously deregulate by not labeling these guys as utilities. And yet, adopt Net neutrality rules. All he has to do is relabel these services as utility services. And then he stands on firm legal footing. He can forebear from any details of those rules. He doesn’t want to apply. The courts have struck this down because it’s incoherent. That’s the problem. If he marches forward on a clear legal path, he’ll be fine. But he wants to avoid World War III on the cable institutions.
So the real issue isn’t that public interest couldn’t prevail but that the Administration isn’t about to declare war on communication providers. And this almost-certain death net neutrality isn’t bad just in terms of diversity of content and democratic processes, it’s also bad for the health of the Web as system. The intent is to produce a more balkanized Internet, with the various local monopolist creating nodes that they increasingly control. Craig Heimark’s remarks in a recent post on high frequency trading apply here:
The old exchange system was a hub and spoke model, which was a stable system architecture. The internet was an outgrowth of a DARPA project to make a communication system so decentralized that it could not be taken out by a nuclear strike. Hub and spoke models are stable, but subject to an outage, say by a nuclear bomb or electrical failure. What chaos theorists have found is that highly decentralized networks are stable, as are single node networks (like exchanges), but that slightly decentralized networks are fragile…So regulators have left investors with the worse possible market structure.
And they are about to do that to the Internet.
Please call or write your Congresscritters, particularly if they are up for reelection this November, and tell them that this is a make-or-break issue as far as your support of Democratic party candidates is concerned.
You can read the transcript here. Please circulate this video widely.