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Beyond Net Neutrality: A Manifesto for Internet Freedom

The Internet's existence within the regulatory system has been a disastrous failure. Network Neutrality is fine as far as it goes. The problem is that it leaves the current abysmal system in place. On my Economics and Architecture of IP Networks Mail list, Erik Cecil has been deconstructing the regulatory system. Bottom line — the most significant thing that can be done for the citizens of the internet in the US would be for the FCC to declare the internet protocol to be telecommunications and no longer exempt from regulation.

What people don't seem to grasp is that now that the republican FCC gave the internet to the incumbent duopoly, the telcos and cable cos are just as free from scrutiny of what matters most to the ordinary citizen as the derivatives and credit default swaps departments of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

Remember the solitary freedom fighter who flung the hammer at big brother in Apple's 1984 Superbowl commercial? Well, here you go. We can really use a good iconoclast. I think we have such in the person of Erik Cecil.

A canny observer said: Anyone whose business plan depends on the status of providers of Internet access/transmission as "unregulated" and "non-carrier" is, in my view, whistling past the regulatory graveyard. Such a business plan is one FCC decision away from destruction.

Erik Cecil replied: If this were not true, there would be no need for regulated carriers to pump millions and millions of dollars into Astroturf., lobbyist, politician, etc. There'd be no need for them to blanket DC with endless and misleading advertisements every time some key piece of legislation might affect their perceived entitlement to keep their snouts in money troughs filled by emptying everyone's wallets.

We live in an age of commodity fiber optic transport providing connectivity never dreamed possible only 20 years ago. Computing is also a commodity input. Both put into the hands of individuals the computing, processing, broadcasting, information gathering, content-generating and interactive power in ways unimaginable even 10 years ago.

We, the People, are capable of providing utility-like services anywhere connectivity exists.

We, the People, must have legal rights in our hands at least as powerful as the technologies we carry around in our pockets.

We, the People, must be free to deploy our technology on our terms; we cannot be required to subsidize wire owners who extract value from our minds, our rights of way, and our wallets in order that they may continue to sell back to us fractions of the capabilities technology has already commoditized.

We, the People, must be free reject as irrelevant politicians who spend hundreds of millions of dollars of tax payer money to create and adjudicate carrier's rules for apportioning technological scarcities and selling it back to us.

We, the People, are the Public Utilities; we are the Public Interest; it is our government, it is our Internet, and it is our government.

There are no competitors and there's barely an Internet left outside of the branded Mall of America the FCC is apparently about to convince us is the cutting edge.

I think America, however, has had enough of the cutting edge; it hurts because it is so dull and it bleeds because it is so inefficient. They can do far better themselves. DC needs to push monopolies out of the way, step out of the middle itself and get behind people instead of on top of them.

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VINTON CERF
Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

Comments

Erik Cecil seems to forget that "network neutrality" is a corporate agenda. By Brett Glass  –  Oct 24, 2009 3:22 pm PDT

The lobbying for "network neutrality" in DC is being funded by Google, which is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund or even take over so-called "public interest" groups and think tanks. Google is the "astroturfer" here, not the telcos.

Why is Google doing this? Because it wants to hamstring ISPs, making sure that they are subjected to onerous regulation that prevents them from innovating. (Google wants to do all of the "innovating," whilst relegating ISPs to the delivery of an undifferentiated commodity product.) It also wants to tilt the playing field so that no company could ever arise from a garage to challenge its monopoly. And, of course, Google wants NONE of this regulation to apply to itself.

Mr. Cecil once worked for Level3, and zealously argued that Level3 should not be subjected to regulation that might require it not to "redline" rural areas, as it ias been doing for the past several years. One can only wonder: is he now being paid, directly or indirectly, by Google?

The corporate agenda By Joe Tighe  –  Oct 25, 2009 7:22 am PDT

I agree with Erik's assessment.  There is a corporate agenda funding by several large content providers as cited above (and more).  These companies are spending millions of dollars on lobbyists to influence legislators and represent their internet business agendas. 

Disclosure - I am not paid by or affiliated with any internet service provider, content provider, political party, politician or government agency for my published views.

What constitutes a lot of lobbying dollars? By Dan Campbell  –  Oct 25, 2009 4:41 pm PDT

Through all the net neutrality debate as well as in other circles I often hear the same refrain over and over again, that "these companies are spending millions of dollars on lobbyists...", and wonder if that is not exaggerated, or at least relative.  Is that supposed to be alot?  Actually, I saw a stat recently where the amount of lobbying dollars spent to date by AT&T;, Verizon, Comcast and even Google were all below $10M, or perhaps just above $10M.  I don't know what the exact (or at least ballpark) numbers are, but those numbers actually strike me as quite small given the multi-billion dollar size of these companies (which also is the subject of many a beef from the pro NN crowd.) I don't know what the stats really are but saw something that Google has spent less than $2M to date this year.  That is nothing to them.  Lunch maybe.  That won't buy them 30 seconds of advertising time on this year's Super Bowl.  If they are spending hundreds of millions, well maybe that's different then, but again it's all relative.  And let's not forget that through the years, much of the dollars spent by these companes is to lobby against each other!  More than a quarter century ago it was competitive IXC's against Ma Bell, then it was the IXCs and LECs against each other, then it was the LECs against the cable companies as they tried to diversify into the video delivery side of things, and on and on.  Now it is kind of funny to see a combination of legacy IXCs, legacy LECs and legacy cable companies banding together in a common cause.  Welcome to Washington.

Companies spending millions of dollars on lobbyists By Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Oct 28, 2009 10:48 pm PDT

... well, they exist on both sides of the NN debate. And activists on either side love to claim that they are in the right by pointing to all that money being spent on DC lobbying.  The "pro net neutrality" activists are simply louder than those on the other side, on some forums.  *Yawn*

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