Skip to comments.If the FCC had regulated the Internet from the beginning…
Posted on 12/28/2010 11:43:24 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
If the FCC had been given the authority to regulate the Internet from its commercial inception along the same lines demanded by its current commissioners, what would it look like today? Jack Shafer at Slate gives us a Potterville version of Its A Wonderful Internet, with Cass Sunstein as a digital-age Potter, demanding that the denizens of his town kowtow to his will. How would the Internet, which has been an engine of economic expansion for almost two decades, have developed under the kind of top-down fairness rules demanded by Net Neutrality advocates today?
The FCC immediately determines that the lack of interoperability among the online systems harms consumers and orders that each company submit a technical framework by January 1994 under which all online companies will unify to one shared technology in the near future. The precedent for this are the technical standards that the FCC has been setting for decades for AM and FM, and for television. The online services threaten legal action again, and again Congress passes new legislation authorizing the FCC to do as it wishes. The online companies hustle to submit a technical framework. Microsoft wants in on the game, so it persuades the FCC to extend the framework deadline to July 1995.
In late 1993, AOL and Delphi become the first online services to offer the Internet. The FCC orders both to drop the feature until the FCCs labs approve it. We cant have the online industry pushing out beta software on unsuspecting customers willy-nilly. Such software could compromise the users computers, interfere with other users computers, or crash the whole online world, the FCC chairman says.
In September 1996, Microsoft, whose biggest individual stockholders are Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Ballmer, who are raising millions for the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign, wins the FCCs online design shootout.
Microsoft calls its online-unifier Bob.
This award is made purely on the technical merits, the FCC chairman remarks.
The FCC is particularly enamored of the back door that Microsoft has built into Bob, making it easier for police to monitor communications in real time. The commission also applauds Microsofts forward thinking because it has incorporated a virtual V-chip in Bob. The censoring software is analogous to the V-chip the FCC wants TV manufacturers to build into their sets to block violent and mature TV programming from being viewed by children.
The regulators also love Bob because it has created more Channels for police, fire, libraries, city councils, legislatures, courts, and public service messages than the other proposed systems. Bob testers complain that these channels leave little space for the data, information, and communications they expect to find on an online system. One compares Bob to a government designed version of the Yellow Pages, only duller. Another pines for the Wild West days of the unregulated online world when you didnt have to pay virtual parking to your local municipality before you went shopping inside the online mall.
For those who dont recall, or who have blocked the memory, Bob was an unmitigated failure by Microsoft for an operating system (really just an overlay for Windows) that gave novice users a supposedly friendly, safe interface. It did that by restricting how the computer could be used, while giving owners a treacly smiley-face character and other animated characters to shepherd users through a virtual house that opened applications such as a word processor and calender. Shortcuts to the program appeared in picture frames on the walls. The only thing missing was padding on the walls and a straitjacket for the user.
Jack has two things right about why the FCC would love Bob. It put you in your place, and it treated you like a child.
Be sure to read all of Shafers dark, dystopian vision.
The moral of the story: someone will lead innovation and expansion on the Internet. Either we can maintain our leadership by maintaining the private property rights of those who build networks and create the applications and content that make it interesting and worthwhile to consumers, or we can watch as others take the leadership and build for the new online economy. The Internet in 20 years will bear as much relation to today as the 1993 version does for us now, and top-down regulation simply cannot plan well enough to allow us to realize its full potential in any circumstance, and certainly not if the government is focused on imposing a certain top-down, academic ideal of fairness as its primary purpose.
Barrons takes a different direction, using a restaurant metaphor in its editorial blast against the FCC:
Last week, the FCC decided that the owners cannot operate their property to make as much money as they can for their investors, and to provide the services they think are demanded in the marketplace. Instead, the FCC says the owners of Internet property must protect the privilege of users to consume as much bandwidth as they please, transmitting any lawful content they please. They cannot limit access to their property by bandwidth hogs without asking for permission. Higher fees and traffic restrictions for heavy users must be reasonable in the eyes of the commission. Wed like to see FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski run a restaurant with all menu prices and quantities so regulated.
Laughably, the commission calls this a pro-investment, pro-competition policy. Others call it a policy to strengthen free speech, but they are using the wrong definition of free. The Internet isnt provided free of charge; its property, built to return a profit by satisfying customers. Thats why it works so well. It doesnt need a referee.
The FCCs idea of net neutrality regulation threatens to confiscate that property, inch by inch. That will choke off investment, limit speech and reduce consumer choices.
The restaurant police may well be coming in fact, to a certain extent theyre already here but the point is well taken.
If the FCC got into digital communications early we would still be on dial-up at 300bd.
What was it Reagan said?
“If it succeeds, tax it.
If it gets in trouble, regulate it.
If it begins to fail, subsidize it.”
Something along those lines. I realize that Al Gore invented the internet (Government invented - DARPA), but still . . .
This is really funny coming from Hot Air. Are they just stupid, believers in Glenn Beck’s Verizon fueled paranoia, or do they really believe they are one of the big boys who like drudge will be able, without neutrality, to suck the smaller sites dry by imposing extraneous costs and filters on them?
You think FreeRepublic can compete with the band width grabs?
Along the lines of this regulation is something I read about four months ago.
Before long, it will take no time at all to build a pretty accurate profile of you based on purchases, searches made, your location, your cell phone usage (where you use it, when, how long are the calls, to whom were they made) from your activity on the internet.
The sale of this information to target hyper-specific product pitches to people is only one way of using this information.
If we’d have just enforced laws dealing with the use of the SSN, I’m not sure we’d be in as much trouble with all of this than we will be.
Remember, you are only going to be a prospect if both your credit and your health are where they need to be so that the pitch makes sense.
Today, through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs and other means, we volunteer so much information to the ether that it would be very difficult to claim any objective right to privacy.
Zuckerberg may have become rich because there were a lot of horny people in college. He’s beyond wealthy because idiots volunteer their entire life and interests up for free.
Microsoft Bob LOL
I watched BG fire a software engineer when a demo of Bob failed during a demonstration at the exclusive Microsoft Home.
Bob was the brainchild of Melinda Gates and the bossman didn’t like it when the engineer belittled it.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.