Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FCC Taps Reasonable Man to be Net Neutrality Czar

In a 3 to 2 decision along party lines, the FCC voted to adopt an Order that purportedly codifies and makes enforceable the open Internet principles that have been kicking around since 2005, aka “net neutrality.”

The actual Order isn’t public yet, but the FCC news release as well as the public statements of the Commissioners yesterday indicate that it (1) mandates Internet Service Providers to be transparent about their network management practices, (2) prevents wireless ISP’s from blocking websites, and wireline ISP’s from blocking content, applications, services and devices, subject to reasonable network management practices, and (3) prohibits wireline ISP’s from “unreasonably discriminating” in the transmittal of traffic.

For clarification, I guess, the Order makes it clear that “reasonable network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.”

This all sounds pretty reasonable, right? Most people agree that the public’s interest in the Internet -- the infrastructure of today’s democracy and platform for free speech and innovation -- deserves protection and oversight. Most also agree that the government can’t and shouldn’t build out networks to serve America’s 308 million people. Businesses should be encouraged by market forces to invest in networks, and need freedom to fairly exercise judgment in the management of their enterprise.

The often used metaphor likens the Internet to an “information highway” in need of basic rules of the road. Excessive tolls, detours and bumps slow down the information traffic and the modern economy. The Internet is the 21st century Interstate on which goods and services hum along to good people everywhere at the same clip. On the asphalt highway you get a ticket for going too fast or driving recklessly. On the Internet it’s been a free-for-all, until now.

The long-awaited cop on the Internet beat is someone you might recognize. The Reasonable Man, that prudent fictional character who mows his own lawn in shirt sleeves, drives an American car, takes the flag in when it rains, and whose conduct sets the standard in tort law will now work a second job over at the FCC.

What constitutes “reasonable network management” when technology is evolving at the speed of light and millions of dollars are at stake will likely be determined by 3 to 2 decisions at the FCC along party lines until some court or the Congress gets involved, and even then “reasonableness” will depend on one’s view of the world. If you believe government should protect the public’s interest and ensure the equal opportunity to succeed, reasonable network management tactics will be scrutinized very carefully and free speech and democracy will be accorded substantial weight on the scales of justice.

If, on the other hand, you believe corporations’ First Amendment rights, and the “right” of big business to accumulate unfettered power and wealth are more deserving of protection than ordinary people and the public good, then any interference with the machinations of big-business is, well, unreasonable.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pelosi Is No Lame Duck

January 4, 2011
The deal struck between the White House and Republicans that would have extended the Bush tax cuts and greatly enhance the coffers of the countries richest people -- dead and alive- -- failed to make it on to the House floor for a vote before the 112th Congress convened on January 3, 2011.
In a surprise move that has some Democrats euphoric and Republicans stunned, Speaker Nancy Pelosi exercised her authority for the final time and blocked the vote.
“We will not let these Bush tax cuts go through the gate. The gate is closed, and don’t think about going over the fence. The fence is too high, and you all are too fat to pole vault in. You don’t look good in jumpsuits, and real parachuting went out of style with George H.W!  We are not going to give millionaires and billionaires more money when most Americans are struggling to make ends meet. This proposed legislation would add billions of dollars to the deficit,” she said before grabbing two bottles of Chardonnay and jumping out of the House Chamber window on to an inflatable slide. 
Above the hum of the private jet waiting below, the crowd heard these last words, 
"To the Republican who called me a m—-f—er, f—- you! I've been in the business 23 years. I've had it. That's it."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I can see Augusta From my House

Maine’s same-stream media featured two columns in Sunday’s Kennebec Journal about the candidate who publicly criticized the Republican choice for Speaker of the House. The two share four themes: the controversial Republican choice for Speaker of the House, the Maine Clean Elections Act (“MCEA”), the machismo of “doing doors,” and the familiar tale of guys who have never won a State House race telling a woman who has how to do it. 
The liberal guy of course questions the wisdom of her spending less money than most other candidates, and calls it “campaign malpractice” that she won by 58% of the vote. The 2655 people who supported her must not have read the studies he cites faulting her campaign methodology.  The Democrats who did read them going in to the November election lost. Oh well.  Better luck next time!
The conservative, a man of the People, just wants to repeal the Maine Clean Election Act. He and the GOP know better than the all the real people who worked like dogs to get this law on the ballot in 1996 in order to cut the cord between wealthy special interests and politicians. That 80% of all legislative candidates use Maine’s Clean Election law isn’t important. Spending $1196 legally on a computer (my God!) to run a campaign that will cost taxpayers ultimately $717 is a sin, and his Clean Election candidate who stiffed the State for $1.2 million and used MCEA funds in an uncontested race is patriotic, or something like that.
Both guys do share one major concern. The fact that she didn’t knock on peoples’ doors when they weren’t home or having dinner really bugs them. This is how elections have been won and lost forever. How dare she do things differently?
Maybe we aren’t ready for grizzlies, but Maine could use some mamas in the media.