Sunday, August 07, 2005


How Martin's FCC is different from Powell's

The difference between the Powell FCC and the Martin FCC (.doc, .pdf) is clear in the re-statement of The Four Internet Freedoms issued Friday! Also see Martin's statement (.doc, .pdf) and, for example, this article on Powell's Four Internet Freedoms.

Powell: Freedom to access content.
Martin: Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.

Powell: Freedom to run applications.
Martin: Consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement;

Powell: Freedom to attach devices.
Martin: Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.

Powell: Freedom to obtain service plan information.
Martin: Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
And the Martin FCC adds an important footnote:
All of these principles are subject to reasonable network management.
To Powell, the Internet carries freedoms.
To Martin, the Internet provides not freedoms, but rather "entitlements" to "consumers." See Kevin (heart) Consumers.

To Powell, the freedoms are general.
To Martin, there's an unspoken bias whereby non-consumers are subject to different entitlements.

To Powell, the freedoms are absolute.
To Martin, the presumption is that illegal uses are likely; law enforcement trumps "consumer" "entitlement" in all cases.

To Powell, service plan information should exist in the disinfecting light of day.
To Martin, "consumers" need not bother their pretty little heads about service plan information; as long as there's "competition" (defined as one or more "competitors"(?)), all's right with the world.

Oh, and to Martin, there's a gathering danger that "consumer" "entitlements" might "harm the network" or depart from "reasonable network management."

Susan Crawford provides her usual incisive analysis here.

I'm scared.

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There really is no difference between Powell and Martin and you're deluding yourself if you think there are. Both are fundamental proponents of a duopolistic approach to bandwidth provision; that is, Powell's infamous 'competition among the modalities'.

All Martin is doing is taking Powell's approach to its logical conclusion: the networks belong to those that own them. Customers don't own them. Independent ISPs don't own them. CLECs don't own them. Cable and phone companies do own them and can (with the FCC's permission) do with them as they damned well please.

Powell began the slow, steady squeezing off of competition. Martin is just there to finish the job that was mostly already done.
The Network Neutrality statement was apparently written by FCC C Copp's office. You might want to contact them with your concerns. Note that a statement in a press release does not carry much legal value.
In reviewing past statements of Ch Powell, he indeed did refer to human beings in his Four Freedoms as "consumers." So there is some truth to comment that the emperor's clothes have changed very little.
I disagree supporting "modality competition" is endorsing broadband duopoly. Powell's policy has helped drive wireless broadband, wifi, broadband over powerlines and more. Broadband prices are down and speeds are up. Who cares what they call people. I do think "entitlement" language is more often a formula for creeping regulation of the internet.
David, well done. If there is any comfort, it is the predictability that the ruling party's words are meaningless theater and the opposite of actual policy.

Powell struggled with this, naively believing in pure principles. But Martin clearly is in step with the program. He doesn't grant consumer freedoms, only entitlements. And even to the concept of entitlements he spews qualifications based on the overriding claims of content owners, law enforcement and goverment, and network providers. In summary consumers have no rights and take a back seat to virtually everyone else. Now that's the Republican party we've come to know.

I am scared too. This is not small government conservatism, but uncompetitive elitism. As Isenberg has shown and been proved correct in the Rise of the Stupid Network and the Internet, it's bad economics and technical policy. It's especially bad for innovation and small industries like P2P.

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