Tag: Larry Downes

The ITU’s Floundering Effort to Retake the Internet

If you haven’t been following the push by regulators from the International Telecommunications Union to grab control of the Internet, Larry Downes’ article on Forbes.com this morning is a good window onto events.

Government regulators have long controlled and profited from telecommunications, also using it for surveillance. With the growth of the Internet, government regulators from around the world have lost their grip on communications, and now they are working to get it back. At the World Conference on International Telecommunications (or WCIT, commonly pronounced “wicket”) meeting in Dubai early next month, ITU regulators plan to introduce a series of proposals that would recapture telecommunications for the national regulatory bodies.

But, while showing just how out of touch ITU regulators are, Downs illustrates that the game has changed. A slick PR campaign will not help the ITU roll the telecom and Internet firms that oppose their plans. The telecom and Internet firms aren’t even the most important players.

The ITU is no different than the sponsors of ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, and other attempts at regulating the Internet, its content, or its users by governments large and small. Like the media lobbyists who continue to see the successful fight to kill SOPA and PIPA as a proxy war waged solely by Google and other Internet companies, the ITU simply can’t accept the reality that Internet users have become their own best advocates. Without prodding, they readily work together to defend a common-sense faith in self-governance for engineering resources and an unshakable belief in a free marketplace of ideas, the cornerstones of the Internet’s success.

That’s a little triumphal, but not too triumphal. The Internet is not governments’ to regulate.

Of course, governments will not release their grip on communications easily. The ITU’s unsubtle and ham-handed attempt to take control of the Internet is only one instance, belying more insidious work being done in the U.S. and abroad to tax and control us through our communications infrastructure.

Continued vigilance in the face of these efforts will defeat them, vigilance being—as always—the price of liberty.

SOPA/PIPA: Harbinger or Aberration?

He’s not unrestrained, but Larry Downes sees the remarkable downfall of legislation to regulate the Internet’s engineering as a harbinger of things to come. Jerry Brito, meanwhile, tells us “Why We Won’t See Many Protests like the SOPA Blackout.”

They’re both right—over different time-horizons. The information environment and economics of political organization today are still quite stacked against public participation in our unwieldy federal government. But in time this will change. Congress and Washington, D.C.’s advocacy and lobbying groups now have some idea what the future will feel like.

FCC Votes to Preserve the Internet … in Amber

Larry Downes has depth of knowledge and a way with words, both of which he puts to good use in this C|Net opinion piece on the FCC’s vote today moving forward with public-utility-style regulation of Internet service.

If you’re interested in learning detail about the issues, it’s a good read. My favorite part is the conclusion:

The misplaced nostalgia for an Internet that has long since evolved to something much different and much more useful has led to the adoption today of rules that may have a similar effect. The FCC’s embrace of open-Internet rules may indeed preserve the Internet—but preserve it in the same way amber preserves the bodies of prehistoric insects. That gloomy outcome isn’t certain, of course. Internet technology has a wonderful habit of routing around inefficiency and unnecessary obstacles. As between Moore’s Law and FCC law, I’m betting on the technology to prove the ultimate regulator—and the sensible one, at that.

Larry Downes on Internet “Reclassification”

A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the FCC’s claim of authority to regulate Internet service. That was good news—and it sure didn’t create a crisis. It meant that the FCC would have to get authority from Congress if it wanted to regulate the Internet.

But a little hiccup in that plan quickly emerged: Congress won’t let the FCC regulate the Internet. Bills to do that have been floating around Capitol Hill for years, and they’ve never gotten traction.

So the proponents of government-controlled Internet access services have worked up an end-run around Congress: They want the FCC to try to reclassify Internet access from an unregulated “information service” to a “telecommunications service,” subject to common carrier regulation, like the monopoly phone system used to be (… and still is, generations after the monopoly ended).

Well, Larry Downes has been kicking the “reclassification” idea up and down the field. To relax, he’s been jumping up and down on ”reclassification.” Recently, Downes had a dream in which he took out a gun and shot “reclassification.” When he awoke, he did not apologize.

I recommend reading his post on the TechLiberationFront blog.