[This is a letter I wrote to the editor of the Colorado Daily, a small Boulder newspaper that caters to the University of Colorado community, in reaction to an editorial they ran on June 7, 2010.]
Dear Colorado Daily,
I wish to respond to the editorial in today’s paper, “FCC shouldn’t regulate Web” by Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity.
I must strongly disagree with Mr Kerpen’s conclusion that the FCC should be prevented from “regulating” the Internet, as well as his erroneous assertion that “The Internet — in the absence of regulation — has flourished into a remarkable engine of economic growth, innovation, competition and free expression.” The Internet is a wonderful invention, it is true, but Mr Kerpen’s twisting of the issues needs some correcting.
The Internet, as well as the entire telecommunications industry, has always been regulated since shortly after it got started — as it must be, if society is to derive the full benefits of this wonderful technology. This was painfully learned early in the 20th century, when unbridled competition between private telephone companies was creating a maddeningly inefficient and wasteful industry due to duplication of phone lines. The result was granting a licensed monopoly to the Bell Company, which created the best telecommunications network in the world for decades. I speak from some experience: I earned an MS in Telecommunications at CU-Boulder in 2002, where I studied the issue of competition in telecommunications in some detail, and in fact won a national prize in 1999 from the International Communication Association for my essay on industry competition in the aftermath of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
The case brought by the FCC against Comcast for the slowing of Bitorrent traffic was dismissed on the legal technicality that the FCC “lacked authority” to regulate the broadband industry. This flies in the face of common sense, and deserves to be overturned; it is certainly reason enough for the FCC to be explicitly granted that authority by Congress — but which has been hog-tied by lobbying interests from the telecommunications industry, as was evident in the 1996 Act. Actually, in this case the FCC was striving to preserve net neutrality — the true cornerstone which makes the Internet work so well. This was an entirely serendipitous development stemming the Internet’s evolution. It developed almost entirely within the US academic research community in the latter 20th century, after the seminal technology was invented as a result of DARPA reseach in the early 1960’s. This is something the “free market” could never have delivered, and it is preposterous for Mr Kerpen to even suggest it. Apparently he also doesn’t have a clue as to how the software on which most of the Internet runs was developed and is still maintained by the global open source software community. If this court decision is allowed to stand, it will be the first crack in the wall of net neutrality, leading to a slippery slope with the other big carriers beginning to discriminate in their handling of Internet traffic, who will start to nickel and dime everyone they can for how their Internet services are delivered. This is a marketplace nightmare which we should strenuously seek to avoid.
Furthermore, Mr Kerpen’s shrill mischaracterization of the issues on so many other points, e.g. “..Washington takeover…FCC extremism…free-market Internet…mobilizing the public”… are all indicators that point to his underlying “Trojan horse” mission: to establish corporate power over a public resource, disguised as an effort to do good for all. No, make no mistake: Mr Kergen, and his band of scheming colleagues over at the misnamed “Americans For Prosperity” camp, need to be shown for what they are: a front for naked corporate power, who deliberately twist the truth for a hidden agenda that seeks to confuse the public with their doublespeak, rather than empower them with a knowledge of history and plain facts.
1118 Centaur Circle #D
Lafayette, CO 80026