RE: Fairness doctrine - applied to internet

Subject: RE: Fairness doctrine - applied to internet
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 13:07:11 -0400

Unlike phone service providers, ISPs cannot hold customers to long,
onerous contracts. If you've been bright enough (exercised a bit of
forethought) to have your e-mail addresses and web-hosting, etc. done by
third parties, then you can pull the plug on your ISP tomorrow. The most
you'll pay is the cost of a month of service. So, rather than have
government impose itself onto the issue of throttling... thereby
infallibly invoking the "law of unintended consequences", why not let
customers just vote with their feet... and their wallets?

Obviously, people are capable of discovering (and announcing) that
this-or-that ISP is engaging in deceptive and dishonest practices, so
there's a business opportunity, as well - become the watchdog.
Everybody else can use your info to decide whether to stay with their
current ISP or to become part of the dreaded "churn". Next thing you
know, ISPs will be posting their "traffic shaping" policies, as a
competition tool - both their own statements about what they do (and
intend to do) and the statements of "disinterested" or neutral third
parties... watchdogs and consumer advocates.

What you don't want is the government exercising control over content.
Costs have been dropping in the internet biz for years. Internet service
is the next thing to free. Sure, I'll hear from some students and poor
people that it's nothing like free, but if you've been around for more
than a few years and compare what you get for your dollar today with
what you could get in (say) 1990, the difference is staggering, and
favorable to you the consumer.

The moment government takes a direct, regulatory interest in content, as
opposed to infrastructure and bandwidth issues, the cost trend will
reverse. The first cost will be the huge expansion of the bureaucracy -
after all, the internet is a huge thing - not only will they need tens
of thousands of bureaucrats to respond to all the complaints about
unfairness, they'll need thousands more just to examine traffic and
decide whether the US government has jurisdiction. Well, it will have
jurisdiction (regardless of the origin of the content) when the content
flows through US ISPs on its way to you. The second cost will be the
paperwork burden associated with compliance. The third will be the cost
of lawyers and other protection (for the ISPs) against the regulators
and people using the regulators for malicious purposes.

With government regulating content, censorship will not be far behind.
Right now, anybody can set up a website, blog, vlog, etc., to hold forth
their beliefs and opinions about almost anything, and to counter anybody
else's website that promulgates opinions that they don't like... and it
costs pennies.

There are already laws about "hate", libel/slander, defamation, fraud
and so on. Massive government intervention in content is "a bad thing".
The possibility of intervention by government being (or remaining)
anything but "massive" is non-existent. Ask the netizens of China how
well that's working out for them.

Char J-T probably likes to have her HATT matrix be "complete" and
accurate and widely applicable and useful... but how would she like it
if she was forced to include every little piece of code that anybody
demanded be included, AND had to deal with people filing formal
complaints because their little 2MB shareware helplet was shown at a
disadvantage compared with Flare and Doc2Help?

Some of you folks who have sites and blogs about tools and how to get
the best use out of them might find yourselves obliged to give "equal
time" to competing products, or to allow representatives of those
competing products equal space on your site or blog.

Imagine how people who post about the proper use of English (or any
other language) would be required to contort themselves.

Imagine how many would just give up when compliance issues began to
appear everywhere. Imagine how any hint of non-compliance would open up
anybody to costly civil suits.

On the other hand, if the task of producing a compliant website, blog,
etc. became truly onerous, only the most dedicated would even bother,
which would certainly cut down on the volume of dreck out there... hmmm
... silver linings are everywhere, aren't they? :-)

- Kevin

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Re: Fairness doctrine: From: Diane Brennan

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