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Don't miss -- FCC's McDowell: why engineering problems should be solved by engineers not bureaucrats

The wisdom and clarity of thought prize at the FCC's enbanc hearing at Stanford goes to --- FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell!

I urge you to take a few moments and read the following excerpt from Commissioner McDowell's statement yesterday -- it really gets to the heart of the matter of what the appropriate role is for the FCC in broadband network management issues.

"...In their joint press announcement, Comcast and BitTorrent expressed the view that “these technical issues can be worked out through private business discussions without the need for government intervention.”

As I have said for a long time, it is precisely this kind of private sector solution that has been the bedrock of Internet governance since its inception. America’s Internet economy is the strongest in the world. It got that way not by government fiat, but by all interested parties working together toward a common goal. By definition, the Internet, a network of networks, is a “Wiki” environment which we all share, shape, build and, ultimately, pay for. Since it was opened up for public use, as a society we have worked hard to ensure that the Internet remains open and free. We have also worked hard to ensure that the Internet works, period. We call this: Internet governance. But since the days of ARPANET, Internet governance has migrated further away from government regulation, not closer to it.

By flattening out the governance structure into a bottom-up rather than government-mandated top-down environment, it has long been believed that the Internet is better able to flourish as a more dynamic and democratic entity. In contrast, an illustration of more government control of the Internet is China’s Internet model. While this may be an extreme example, some argue that societies that regulate the Internet less are more democratic, while societies that regulate it more are less democratic.

Early efforts to keep the Internet open and free sparked the creation of non-statecontrolled Internet governance entities. For example, the Internet Society (ISOC), an umbrella organization founded in 1992, develops technical standards for the Internet. It is a non-profit corporation with a board of trustees and is funded by individuals and organizations in the Internet community virtually free from any government influence. Several organizations work with ISOC on a variety of Internet governance issues. Among them are: the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG); the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), the Internet Research Steering Group (IRSG); and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), among others. These organizations are largely self-governing and self-funded, with individuals and representatives of private organizations and companies serving on their boards. Similarly, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a private non-profit entity that works to govern the Internet’s domain name system. ICANN manages the domain name system through a joint project agreement with the Department of Commerce. Furthermore, ICANN is a non-profit corporation funded and governed by private entities. The P4P Working Group is essentially no different.

The point is that the Internet has flourished by operating under the principle that: engineers should solve engineering problems, not politicians and bureaucrats. But don’t take my word for it. Let me close with a quote from someone we all know and who had a great deal of influence over how the Internet became privatized. 

  • Though government played a role in financing the initial development of the Internet, its expansion has been driven primarily by the private sector. For electronic commerce to flourish, the private sector must continue to lead. Innovation, expanded services, broader participation, and lower prices will arise in a market-driven arena, not in an environment that operates as a regulated industry.
  • Accordingly, governments should encourage industry self-regulation wherever appropriate and support the efforts of private sector organizations to develop mechanisms to facilitate the successful operation of the Internet. Even where collective agreements or standards are necessary, private entities should, where possible, take the lead in organizing them.

Any guesses as to who said this? It comes from the Presidential Directive announcing the “Framework for Global Electronic Commerce” signed by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

We should heed President Clinton’s advice. The government should encourage collaborative private sector solutions, such as those created by the P4P Working Group and the BitTorrent/Comcast agreement. But state intrusion into these partnerships will only inhibit future constructive endeavors. So to those who argue for more government control, I say be careful what you wish for.

Is now the time to discard that model which has served us so well after so many years of tremendous success?..."

Well said. Enough said.