You are here

No freedom of speech in net neutrality movement? In defense of Ambassador Verveer

In a remarkably ill-advised and irresponsible blog post, Mr. Feld of Public Knowledge attacked the State Department's Ambassador Phil Verveer for apparently veering from the strict orthodoxy of FreePress/Public Knowledge's view of net neutrality. 

  • Ambassador Verveer was merely doing his job and speaking freely and forthrightly that other countries will obviously be watching what the FCC does, given that the U.S. has led communications-competition policy for two decades. 

First, everyone who knows Phil (and I have had the pleasure of knowing him for almost twenty years), knows Ambassador Verveer to be one of the most honorable, wise, measured, and capable professionals and public servants they know, period, full stop.

Second, it is exceptionally bad form and hypocritical for net neutrality proponents who claim the moral/ethical basis of net neutrality is all about Internet Freedom, Freedom of Speech, and that net neutrality is the First Amendent of the Internet, to quarter absolutely no dissent from the radical FreePress/Public Knowledge strict orthodoxy on net neutrality.

  • Does Mr. Feld somehow imagine that no one: is watching; understands what Freedom of Speech really means; and recognizes the hypocrisy here?
  • Isn't walking one's talk central to credibility? 

Third, Mr. Feld apparently does not realize that Ambassador Verveer has a very different job/role than does the FCC, an independent agency. The FCC's job/role is to implement the law and balance the myriad of ever-changing developments, requests, challenges and constituency interests within the confines of the law and its statutory authority. 

  • The State Department's role as the first and oldest of U.S. Government functions, is to protect and promote U.S. interests around the globe and listen and communicate back what Nations around the world are telling us.
    • Ambassador Verveer has an exceptionally difficult job/role. I know first hand. I was a Deputy U.S. Coordinator for Communications Policy in the first Bush Administration, the deputy level to the position Ambassador Verveer now holds.
  • Ambassador Verveer would not be fulfilling his oath of office nor serving the Nation he swore to protect, if he were to adopt the Feld-ian expectation of blind fealty to FreePress'/Public Knowledge's radical net neutrality orthodoxy. 
  • Ambassador Verveer has a job to do and that is to report back to the Secretary of State, the President of the United States, and the FCC what the rest of the world is asking, thinking and concluding about what the U.S. is contemplating to do and actually doing.
    • Mr. Feld's shoot-the-messenger approach because he does not agree with the message, is especially ironic in this case given that diplomats have been afforded safe passage and immunity for parts of three millenia. 
    • Is Mr. Feld's myopia and radicalism in pursuit of his net neutrality goal so blinding that he can not see the almost universal and timeless recognized value of unfettered international diplomacy and the protection of diplomats from intimidation, interference or harm?      

Fourth, Mr. Feld's seriously out-of-bounds attack on Mr. Verveer appears designed to try and intimidate and muzzle any voices that communicate any potential international problems with the FCC's proposed Open Internet regulations or the FCC's consideration of reclassifying broadband and a Title II regulated telecommunications service.  

As I have written before, and will highlight again because it is so very important, the international reaction to the FCC's proposed reversal of longstanding U.S. competition policy has two huge ramifications.

  • Open Season on the Internet? To the extent the U.S. does not respect the boundaries of the U.S. constitution, rule of law, FCC authority, a legitimate problem, or supportable justification for a reversal of longstanding U.S. competition policy, FCC policy changes effectively would declare "open season" on the Internet by providing political cover for any despot that wants to further subjugate his people by clamping down on real Internet freedom in the name of so-called "Open Internet" regulations.  
    • If the U.S. does not respect the boundaries that all free nations currently respect to keep the Internet free and open from Government control, the U.S. can expect no other nation to respect a free and open Internet.  (See "Is FCC Declaring Open Season on Internet Freedom?") 
  • Balkanizing the Internet? To the extent that the U.S. reverses policies that help keep the Internet universal, (i.e. the fundamental nature that most everything integral to the Internet is voluntary,) U.S. policies could unwittingly have the unintended consequences of "Balkanizing the Internet."
    • If the U.S. sets the new precedent of going its own way without supportable justification that others around the world will believe and respect, the U.S. would be setting the example that the Internet should devolve into national internets controlled by national governments, and should not be the universal, voluntary, non-government-controlled Internet it is today and has been for the last two decades. (See: "Unintended Consequences: Balkanizing the Internet.")

In sum, Mr. Feld's irresponsible attack on freedom of speech, an honorable public servant doing his job, and the time-honored respect for diplomacy without intimidation of diplomats, signals that net neutrality is not really what FreePress/Public Knowledge say it is.

  • The focus on enforced orthodoxy of thought and fealty to the approved speech of their talking points -- signals that FreePress' and Public Knowledge's vision of net neutrality -- is more about government control of the Internet than true Internet freedom.