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Net Neutrality Vets Join Obama FCC Transition Team 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the setting-the-table dept.
circleid writes "The Obama-Biden transition team on Friday named two long-time net neutrality advocates to head up its Federal Communications Commission Review team. Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, member of the board of directors of ICANN, and OneWebDay founder, as well as Kevin Werbach, former FCC staffer, organizer of the annual Supernova technology conference, and a Wharton professor, will lead the Obama-Biden transition team's review of the FCC. 'Both are highly-regarded outside-the-Beltway experts in telecom policy, and they've both been pretty harsh critics of the Bush administration's telecom policies in the past year.' The choice of the duo strongly signals an entirely different approach to the incumbent-friendly telecom policy-making that's characterized most of the past eight-years at the FCC." Reuters has a related story about Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who plans to introduce net neutrality legislation in January.
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Net Neutrality Vets Join Obama FCC Transition Team

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  • by GreedyCapitalist (559534) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {cioreh}> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:31AM (#25770177) Homepage
    Why do "net neutrality" advocates ridicule politicians for comparing the Internet to a "series of tubes," and then trust them to regulate it?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:34AM (#25770193)
      Because trusting the phone companies to regulate it has worked even less for us in the past ten years.
      • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@NOsPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:40AM (#25770211) Journal

        Deregulating Wall Street has done wonders for the US economy, unleashing the creative powers of the investor class unto the world. Deregulating the telecom industry is working just as well!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MobyDisk (75490)

          When and how was the telecom industry de-regulated?

          In every state I am familiar with, there is one company that has a government granted monopoly to maintain the phone lines and to provide service over them. That's not deregulation to me.

          I know that some states have laws that force that company to lease the lines to other providers, but it usually doesn't work since they aren't required to lease them at a fair price, and nobody can compete with the company that maintains the lines any way.

          • by aliquis (678370)

            Over here in Sweden the telephone system was made by the government of course, social democratic as we are. In the 90:s it was sold out however and since quite a few years it has been a free market for the providers.

            The lines does obviously still belong to a single owner, I don't know who sets the price but usually you pay one fee for subscription and then you pay another one for the calls you actually make. Same for electricity where you pay one net fee and one power fee.

            There is various companies to selec

          • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@NOsPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @01:34PM (#25771223) Journal

            The Clinton FCC had forced phone companies and cable companies to lease their lines to competitors at fair prices.
            One of the first things the Bush FCC did was to undo this.
            (The exact opposite happened in France around the same time; the EU forced phone line unbundling to the former state monopoly. Result? Cheap, abundant broadband)

            • by spiritraveller (641174) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @04:05PM (#25772099)

              "Clinton FCC" and "Bush FCC" are sort of misnomers. The FCC is an independent Federal agency that does not fall under the Executive branch.

              Commissioners are appointed to five year terms by the President, with approval of the Senate. Once appointed, they are similar to Federal judges in that they may only be removed by impeachment (or the expiration of a term). The President has influence over who gets onto the Commission, but he cannot fire them or tell them what policy to make.

              There is an additional check on the influence of the President in that no more than 3 of the 5 commissioners may be of the same political party. So the President can have some influence in who he appoints over time, but even if he gets two terms, he cannot completely alter the partisan make-up of the Commission.

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by mattwarden (699984)

          I am really getting sick of people propagating the myth that Wall Street was deregulated. The US Government intervenes every single day in the financial markets. The Federal Reserve sets the cost of capital in a committed effort to manipulate the cost/benefit analysis of businesses deciding how and when to grow. The government has a very heavy hand on the financial markets, especially when it comes to encouraging individuals and companies to spend when they wouldn't otherwise spend, and yet when a bubble (w

      • Considering that instances of true net neutrality issues have been extremely far and few between (basically, nonexistant)... hmmm.

    • What does this have to do with that?
      And I'm not aware of politicianS doing this stupid comparison; only of one, who has just been convicted of corruption and lost his bid for reelection.

    • Serious question? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why do Linux advocates ridicule operating systems for being closed-source and bloated, and then trust an operating system to run their computers?

      Why do vegetarians ridicule food for being immoral and unhealthy, but still eat food?

      Why do voters criticize candidates for holding positions they don't like, and then vote for a candidate?

      • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @11:23AM (#25770587) Homepage

        exactly. the gp's question is just silly (or poorly thought out).

        if people want to call America a free and democratic nation, then we need to start acting like one. stop thinking of the government as this separate ruling entity that you have no power or influence over. yes, it's convenient to disassociate yourself from the policy makers of our nation as that makes it easier to wash your hands of the government's actions and their consequences (like war, encroachment of civil liberties, corruption, etc.). but if that's the attitude you're gonna take then what is the point of having a democratic republic?

        if you don't trust a small group of political elite to regulate the internet and other public infrastructure, then why would you trust a small group of corporate elite to do so. at least the public has a say in government policies, thus we have the right to demand changes to the government regulates the internet if we're unhappy with it. however, the public has no say in corporate policies and have no right to dictate how a private corporation operates.

        being a natural monopoly and a vital service with inelastic demand, communications networks like telecoms/ISPs cannot be boycotted effectively by consumers. so even if you believe in having the invisible hand of the Free Market make everything alright, that will not work in this case. but the social apparatus constituting a democratic government exists precisely for situations like these where it provides the only mechanism for carrying out the will of the people in protecting public interest.

        • When you disagree with the vast majority of people in the country there's no reason to bother. Might as well just do something actually productive while the rest of the people in the country get to tell you how to live.

      • by aliquis (678370)

        For the same reason that you write your post: It feels nice to complain.

    • The article is not about Obama choosing Ted Stevens, so I'm not quite onboard with your analysis here....

    • > Why do "net neutrality" advocates ridicule politicians for comparing the Internet to a "series of tubes," and then trust them to regulate it?

      A) Ted "Tubes" Stevens [youtube.com] is a convicted felon who won't be in the Senate much longer [fivethirtyeight.com] (even if that count goes the other way, he'll get expelled by the Republicans [washingtonmonthly.com] and replaced by Gov. Sarah Palin).

      B) There's no true competition among ISPs. If a backbone provider does this, we're screwed. Period. Full stop. You can't just stop using the backbones. That's why t

      • by ptbarnett (159784)

        (even if that count goes the other way, he'll get expelled by the Republicans [washingtonmonthly.com] and replaced by Gov. Sarah Palin)

        A correction: if Ted Stevens wins the election and subsequently vacates the office, Palin will not appoint his replacement.

        After former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter to a vacant US Senate seat, the Alaska state law was changed. A special election will be held to fill the position.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Because the set of politicians who believe that the Internet is a series of tubes and the set of politicians who are competent to regulate the Internet are disjoint.

    • No ridiculed politicians for comparing the Internet to a "series of tubes". We ridicule Ted Stevens for comparing the Internet to a "series of tubes".

      And it looks like Ted Stevens isn't going to win his bid for re-election, so there goes your theory about people trusting him.

    • by Lally Singh (3427)

      How many politicians actually used the "series of tubes" analogy?

      One, and he's a felon now.

    • by theodicey (662941)

      Because Obama seems to understand the issue and is designating responsibility to qualified professionals--

      Not to a 75 year old, internet illiterate convicted felon like Ted "Tubes" Stevens?

  • Refreshing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by txoof (553270) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:38AM (#25770199) Homepage

    It is refreshing to see that Obama is pulling from academia and groups such as ICANN, rather than just from industry to populate his cabinet. I believe that those that have served in industry can offer some of the best insight into policy, but choosing a significant number of executives definitely skews policy in the wrong direction. For that matter, having too many of any one group leads to problems.

    I hope that Obama can see beyond what his party wants, and make decisions based on advice from all sides. Lincoln and Kennedy were both known for filling their cabinets with diverse members from a wide political and social background. After the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs [wikipedia.org] Kennedy sought to limit group think [answers.com] - where all dissenting opinions are squashed by excessive group homogeneity - Kennedy specifically divided up similar advisors and brought in outside experts to help successfully diffuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. He had the political savvy to understand that difficult decisions have no right answer, just answers that are more or less positive for everyone.

    Hopefully Obama will balance his cabinet appointments in a similar way. Drawing from universities is a good start, but some industry experts mixed into the bunch is an excellent step in the right direction as well. As L. B. Johnson said of Hoover, "I'd rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in." It's better to have dissenting opinions inside helping you make positive choices, rather than showering you from outside and making your life more difficult.

    • "successfully diffuse the Cuban Missile Crisis"? I think you mean "defuse". In the context of missiles, diffuse has pretty much exactly the opposite meaning.

    • Re:Refreshing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by eggnoglatte (1047660) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @11:18AM (#25770571)

      Look, I was all out supporting Obama, especially considering the alternatives. But can we PLEASE stop comparing him to Kennedy and Lincoln before he has even started?

      • Re:Refreshing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tsm_sf (545316) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @12:14PM (#25770801) Journal
        Gah, better than comparing him at the end. Nice choice of presidents =(
      • by Neoprofin (871029)
        The funny thing is that both are very beloved presidents who made some very questionable choices in office and ended up dead. If I were Obama I'd be first in line to tell people not to draw those comparisons.
      • But can we PLEASE stop comparing him to Kennedy and Lincoln before he has even started?

        Sure, but you're going to have to tell the right-wing 'tards to stop hyperventilating about him being the antichrist. [photobucket.com] while you're at it.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by seriesrover (867969)

          oh please...there are "tards" (as you so eloquently put it) on both extremes. I don't paint left wingers with the same brush as Stalin just as I shouldn't be painted with some racist overtone. The point the picture [terribly] put it is that most on my side of the aisle are wondering what exactly is going to change and how? The message of "change" has come from just about every candidate if it was popular - Reagan, Clinton, Bush (2), Kerry and now Obama. Have they changed in the way they promised? And as

  • by Pollux (102520) <speter AT tedata DOT net DOT eg> on Saturday November 15, 2008 @09:39AM (#25770205) Journal

    The public would not pay for its Internet services if AT&T discriminated against content, [Jim Cicconi, AT&T executive vice president for regulatory affairs] added. "We'd be shooting ourselves in the foot."

    But, if the public only had a choice between DSL w/ AT&T, cable w/ Comcast, or no internet at all, and both companies throttled content, then the public is really left without a choice. It used to be that consumers had a choice between their internet provider. Nowadays, many major cities and municipalities only have one or two choices, usually both of them major players. And when regional monopolies exist, regulation has to exist to ensure that the monopolies aren't abused.

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      Exactly. Where I live, my choices are Comcast, or satellite. And we all know how bad satellite is. It would probably be cheaper to rent out a tiny house somewhere where I could get un-filtered access, and then buy Comcast and route everything through a VPN to there or something. Seriously. Satellite costs twice as much as Comcast and the service is _horrible_. I actually know people that have switched _back to dial-up_ because satellite was so bad.

    • by pashdown (124942)

      The key to the monopoly problem is municipal fiber for transport, allowing large and small data providers to compete on a level playing field for customers.

  • by dachshund (300733) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @10:44AM (#25770427)

    I've said this before, but why not say it again :)

    The basic issue with Net Neutrality is not how the service should be offered, or anything to do with the technology. It's fundamentally just an issue of who pays. Telecoms would like to collect subscriber revenue from their customers, then turn around and collect more revenue from content providers as well.

    The important thing to understand here is that as bad as the current ISP situation is, under the current model a customer theoretically has the option to respond to price signals by changing their service options, e.g., switching to another provider, or --- if none is available --- simply reducing their consumption. That keeps costs under control to some extent.

    Under the proposed model, it's the content provider who pays. Since a content provider is not a direct "customer" of the ISP, they have very little leverage with the ISP. If, say, Google wants to reach a given class of customers (e.g., the tens millions of customers served by Comcast), they have no choice but to deal with Comcast on whatever terms it chooses--- or give up a huge percentage of the market.

    Now on the surface this seems like a fine deal to Comcast's customers, since they get enhanced network services without any additional service charges. But this leads to a problem: without any price signals, there's no strong incentive on Comcast to moderate their prices. Anything they charge will ultimately be passed along to the customers by the content providers, in the form of higher service charges, reduced quality, and/or dramatically increased advertising. But customers won't see this directly and link it to the ISP, so there will be very little incentive to control costs (no doubt Comcast will mandate that content providers distribute these costs equally, and not single out their customers for additional surcharges). It imposes a huge tax on a very dynamic and growing part of our economy, and it's certainly one we don't need now.

    (Larger providers, incidentally, will have some leverage in this model--- since who wants to be the ISP to cut off iTunes service? But their leverage will come at the cost of squeezing smaller providers for more revenue, dramatically increasing barriers to entering the market. Goodbye new ideas.)

    There are various solutions to this problem, all of which require the ISP to bill their enhanced services to the customer. In the end this gives the same set of enhanced services, but also allows customers to make a decision as to whether they want to pay the ISP, cut down on service, or switch to another provider. Done correctly this should encourage ISPs to open up their networks to many providers, since their revenue will be driven by customer interest and not self-interest.

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Under the proposed model, it's the content provider who pays.

      Link please? That's not mentioned in the reuters article [reuters.com] about the bill. If that is what this law says, then it has nothing to do with net neutrality. Net neutrality is not about who pays. It is about the pipes that deliver the content being neutral to what the content is. The pricing model should stay the way it is.

      • by cduffy (652)

        Net neutrality is not about who pays. It is about the pipes that deliver the content being neutral to what the content is. The pricing model should stay the way it is.

        Sure, it's about who pays -- almost everything is in the end, after all.

        The reason there's a reason for legislation to stop the pipes from favoring certain content providers is that some of the folks who own those pipes have stated (very publicly) that they believe they're owed some of the profits being made by service providers (like Google)

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      No, because the content providers already pay. They already pay quite a bit actually. What the issue is is an attempt to charge them again - many, many times. They pay for their connection already. Why should they now have to pay extra so that they can actually use it? Why should they have to pay every ISP separately to carry their content?

    • by PPH (736903)

      The important thing to understand here is that as bad as the current ISP situation is, under the current model a customer theoretically has the option to respond to price signals by changing their service options, e.g., switching to another provider, or --- if none is available --- simply reducing their consumption. That keeps costs under control to some extent.

      So, if Comcast partners with Google and Verizon does so with MSN (these are the only two service providers in my neighborhood) and I want to use Yahoo!, I'm screwed. Either provider is free to block non-partner services (not likely) or tack on a surcharge (like the ex-CEO of AT&T stated he has the right to do). The latter will make the use of services that compete with my telecommunications provider partners group uneconomical.

      And what if I'd like to start my own competing search engine. I've got to cu

    • The basic issue with Net Neutrality is not how the service should be offered, or anything to do with the technology. It's fundamentally just an issue of who pays.

      Who pays is certainly relevant, but the technology is important. Consider...

      Telecoms would like to collect subscriber revenue from their customers, then turn around and collect more revenue from content providers as well.

      And, in the process, also destroy any protocol or network which can't pay -- like, say, BitTorrent.

      It would also considerably reverse the democratization of the Internet -- as you say:

      Larger providers, incidentally, will have some leverage in this model

      And smaller providers will have less leverage. It'll increase the barrier of entry, and effectively kill real innovation on the Internet.

      "Who pays" can't be separated from the issue, and price is the reason this is being made such an issue -- Google's

  • Bizarro World (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Saturday November 15, 2008 @10:52AM (#25770465)
    The new President is appointing knowledgeable experts to important government posts instead of industry cronies? Pinch me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hanshotfirst (851936)
      Sorry to pinch you, but he named people to a review team which is advising a transition team, not exactly an important government post. He still has time to put doofuses there.
    • The new President is appointing knowledgeable experts to important government posts instead of industry cronies? Pinch me.

      Well, sort of. These aren't permanent positions - just his transition team. He could still choose to appoint industry cronies to the actual important government posts. That said, this is still surprisingly good news.

      And how do you end up with a (Score:2, Troll) anyway?

    • by G-Man (79561)

      Umm, in this one instance maybe, but don't get too excited [washingtonpost.com].

  • All this noise about net neutrality, supporters and against'sers would not have come at all had AT&T CEO kept his trap shut that fateful day.
    By showing his greed for double-dipping and charging websites AND ISP consumers for directing traffic, he showed the face of corporate greed prematurely. This resulted in congress and Obama forcing ISPs to agree to neutrality.
    AT&T CEO must be cursing himself for opening his mouth that day...

  • Net neutrality would be an irrelevant issue if we'd just deregulate the spectrum, giving people access to a plethora of competitive wireless carriers (as opposed to now, where we auction off what in reality is infinitely divisible). As it is now people worry about what companies will do without net neutrality laws because our telecom regulation regime is such that it creates a few big heavyweights and doesn't allow much competition. But all you have to do is open the spectrum to use by anyone, and pretty
    • Net neutrality would be an irrelevant issue if we'd just deregulate the spectrum, giving people access to a plethora of competitive wireless carriers

      What about interference? Seems to me Comcast might have an interest in simply jamming as much wireless as they can, to force people to use wired (cable) connections.

  • was, yes we can!, now, yes icann

    in too late to get mod points

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