FCC: Democracy is a Bug, We’re Working On It

It’s always a little happy-sad to watch the FCC solicit public comment on an issue and then be surprised and self-defensive when the public responds in force. This time, the cycle involves the FCC’s consideration of rules involving network neutrality: more than a million comments were filed during the initial round of feedback. That’s a new record for public participation in a single FCC policy proceeding. (Now you have until September 10 to submit reply-comments.)

There would not have been such an upwelling of public comment on media policy were it not for the Internet, so it’s only fair that an Internet policy proceeding now holds the crown for citizen input. Similarly, the FCC’s apparent inability to cope with this input tells us much about the state of policymaking in the United States. Read More

Net Neutrality’s Nebulous Future

Just before the end of the year, the Federal Communications Commission made a second try at preserving principles of openness on the Internet – often clumsily called “net neutrality,” but better contextualized as an effort to prevent data discrimination.

There’s been loads of coverage of the decision and predictions of its ultimate success as a regulatory tool. Advocates and critics alike are correct when they say that the issue is more than just one thing – it’s multiple attributes of Internet freedom that are on the line here. Read More

Dear Santa: Please Bring Sanity

I’m not a big fan of the consumptive nature of the “holiday season,” though I do love me some reading. One of the latest on my wish list is Tim Wu’s new tome, The Master Switch. The book itself examines the rise of “information empires” within U.S. communications history, ranging from radio to the Internet.

Wu occupies an interesting place in the media policymaking world: he’s not been afraid to speak his mind, and he’s also remained independent enough to look at our information environment from a strategic perspective, instead of getting embroiled in tactical distractions. Read More

Politics-Based Policy, or Policy-Based Politics?

If you haven’t yet read Harold Feld’s humorous critique on the handling of network neutrality as a “political issue” during the recent elections, it’s worth the time.

Harold calls out two functional weaknesses in what constitutes the public interest constituency in D.C.: the desire to score quick political points with no long-term value and the penchant to react in a knee-jerk fashion when the drive to score backfires. Read More

Net Neutrality Now Sliding Down Tubes

After the clusterf*ck circus, near-“deal”-breaking, and back-channel discussions sparked by a judicial ruling stripping the FCC from preventing data discrimination online, and nothing (substantive) doing from the agency itself as a result, the ball has been tossed to Congress. Where it landed with a thud.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) was poised to introduce a bill that would have effectively been a “compromise” – on an issue in which “compromise” would have meant throttling the FCC’s regulatory authority and leaving lots of loopholes for data discrimination. Bad, bad news. Read More