I apologize for being a broken record this week, but this week's FCC decision is an incredibly important one. And it's important to stand up for it now, in the immediate aftermath, while opinions are being formed.
First, there's the ahistorical view that government had little to do with the Internet's successes:
Rather than see the Internet's growth and integration into everyday life as evidence that government intervention isn't necessary, the Web's chief regulator took the opposite view[.] . . . Innovators and entrepreneurs may have been responsible for making the Web great, but care, oversight, and access are now up to the government.
I mean, I'll say it a million times if I have to -- innovation at this scale happened because of the government. I'd encourage Suderman to read up on the Computer Inquiries proceedings -- particularly Computer II in 1980. Specifically, in this proceeding, the FCC protected new data/Internet services by regulating the physical networks of monopoly providers (e.g., AT&T).
That regulation played a huge role in protecting the Internet's openness, and openness is the reason the Internet has generated such enormous levels of innovation. Without Computer Inquiries, the Internet would have developed as a giant iPhone App Store -- with AT&T pre-approving everything. That would have created enormous transaction costs, barriers to entry, the whole nine. (See also Hush-A-Phone for a sense of what AT&T would have done if allowed).
Second, there's this:
Government's chief contributions to broadband access have been a slew of wasteful city-run wifi networks[.]
Again, just wrong. These networks faced relentless legislative attacks (spurred entirely by big incumbent carriers) from Day One. Check out the litigation against the Lafayette fiber network, the attacks on the Bristol fiber network, Verizon's attack on the Philly Wifi network, Qwest's attack on UTOPIA in Utah, etc., etc. Muni Wifi didn't fail -- it was strangled in its cradle.
Third, Suderman says competition is actually not that bad:
Meanwhile, the market has been successful at providing access: The FCC's own data shows that 98 percent of zip codes have at least two broadband providers and 88 percent of zip codes have four or more broadband providers.
The catch though is that FCC's is extremely flawed. It treats an entire zip code as being served if one person in the zip code is served. Also, "broadband" means 200 kbps download -- which isn't even enough to watch YouTube. The larger point is that the access market is extremely uncompetitive.
Genachowski seems oblivious to the fact that that the regulatory regime he is promoting would implicitly require innovators to get permission for their innovations from his agency.
Honestly, I just don't follow this one. I think maybe he's not understanding the idea of network layers. The FCC's actions are primarily about protecting the "bottom" physical layer -- it has nothing whatsoever to do with higher-level application layer services where innovation lives. The separation of the two layers (the traditionally government-imposed separation) is what allows innovation to occur so cheaply -- without access negotiations, etc.
That's why he's offbase when he's talks about the need for innovators to have stability. Yes, they need stability -- they need to make sure they have access to the network. That's the very stability, though, that Comcast threatened by secretly blocking traffic, and then lying about it. And that's the stability that the FCC is protecting.
He tries to fudge the issue at the end by saying network owners' traffic management innovations will be threatened. But he's being a little tricksy here. Earlier, he invokes lofty rhetoric of protecting all innovation and entrepreneurs. But that argument doesn't really make sense, so he hedges here by talking about network owners' innovations, which is a different beast (I guess Comcast's secret blocking of BitTorrent would qualify in this category?)
In any event, the FCC's decision has essentially nothing to do with higher-layer innovation. And this last bit about "network owners" innovation makes me suspect he might know that.
It's a disappointing, uninformed piece from I writer I greatly enjoy.