RedState right to challenge GOA membership in Open Internet Coalition

Posted August 27th, 2010 in Broadband, FCC, Government Regulation and tagged , , by Alton Drew

I was taken aback that a group that promotes itself as defenders of the second amendment right to own firearms would align itself with a group that espouses greater government regulation of our free markets. Gun Owners of America should not be faulted for leaving the Open Internet Coalition. They were probably confused by OIC’s misuse of the words freedom and openness.

I doubt that the mid-term elections had any direct bearing on GOA’s decision to bow out of the group. Conservative groups and commentators are taking inventory of conservatives in name only.

GOA should have imagined a world where buying a shotgun from Walmart took two weeks and a gun owner would have to disclose where she kept her shotgun and how often she cleaned it to any citizen who demanded to know.

So much for freedom.

Furthering the case for willful blindness

Posted August 27th, 2010 in Broadband, FCC, Google, Government Regulation, net neutrality, Verizon and tagged , , by Alton Drew

If there is going to be any “standing up” to the broadband access industry by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, he will first need to get some ammunition from the United States Congress.

Rather than wait on a branch of government that traditionally brings policy making to a slow crawl, Mr. Genachowski may be pursuing the path that provides not only the least resistance but delivers on the old adage in politics: better to do something than to do the most effective thing.

I wouldn’t call Mr. Genachowski’s tactic triangulation. I can’t even say he is being co-opted. I would say that given the fallacy of net neutrality and the need to look like he has delivered something, I would call Mr. Genachowski’s move the expected one.

Spectrum is democratic

Jamilah King’s arguments for net neutrality become more confounding as the FCC draws closer to deciding its next step for implementing open network rules. What is really disconcerting are the attempts to link the lack of net neutrality rules to an alleged bias by broadband access providers against racial minorities.

In addition, there is this never ending argument that providers such as Verizon must be behaving badly because they make billions of dollars in revenues by exploiting consumers and, in the case this article presents, exploiting the property they use to make a product to turn a profit.

First, let us look at revenues. So what if Verizon, the villain in Ms. King’s article, makes billions. It’s simple math. If Verizon serves tens of millions of customers, Verizon is going to make billions of dollars. In addition, if the customers didn’t think Verizon’s service was worth having, Verizon wouldn’t earn billions of dollars in revenue.

Second, Ms. King conveniently leaves out the expenses necessary for Verizon to provide mobile broadband services. Some of these expenses are imposed by the FCC and other government bodies; the same entities that she and other net neutrality proponents would like to impose even more regulations and costs. Ms. King forgets that these additional costs will eventually be passed on to the very African American and Latino consumers she allegedly is concerned with.

Finally, Verizon does not own the airwaves. It has a license from the federal government to use the airways. Verizon also has franchise authority from state and local government for its towers and the lines that connect them.

If this were about prejudice, then far fewer than the 64% of African Americans currently using cell phones to access the Internet would be able to do so.

Access is up but is it access that is productive?

Posted August 25th, 2010 in African Americans, Broadband, Hispanics and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

One possible reason for the increase in broadband access in African American households may have to do with the mode through which African Americans access broadband content. According to Pew Research Center, 64% of African Americans use cell phones or lap tops for broadband access compared to 59% of all American adults.

This may be sufficient for content providers who are only concerned that we can download a ring tone or catch up on whether Victor and Nikki are going to get back together again on The Young and the Restless.

I am more concerned about economic development and empowerment. For all its hype, the Internet’s service to our community remains limited if we cannot extract some value beyond mere entertainment and consumption.

As the high level of unemployment continues to linger in the black and Latino communities, we will need greater access to broadband options that provide greater and more secure bandwidth capabilities. It’s difficult to send out Excel spreadsheets or create blogs over a cell phone.

Making clear the concept of civil right

Posted August 25th, 2010 in civil rights, economy, FCC, Government, Government Regulation, net neutrality and tagged , , by Alton Drew

You pull up to the Chicago Hilton off of Balboa Drive after a grueling 12-hour drive. All you can think about is getting something to eat and some sleep. You go to the check-in desk and ask about the rates for a two-room suite and are quoted a rate of $250 per night. Upon hearing the quote you become indignant because you believe that you should pay a one-star hotel room rate for a five-star hotel room.

The check-in clerk explains that given the amenities of the room, the space it has, and the view, a rate of $250 is the market rate. You believe, however, that you have a right to the room at the lower rate because, after all, your need to sleep is just as important as Paris Hilton’s.

This is basically the argument that proponents of net neutrality have been raising. Content providers have a civil right to have their traffic treated equally by broadband access providers. A bit is a bit is a bit, they would argue.

Shouting the phrase “civil rights” from the rafters as a rallying cry is designed to invoke fear and guilt versus reason. Shouting civil rights is like giving libation with the expectations that upon channeling the spirits of Martin and Malcolm, anything in opposition to net neutrality will attract an evil taint and be thrown in the back of the bus where it belongs.

I never met Dr. King, but from what I know of him, he would have wanted us to approach this debate with reserve and reason. Reason requires that we properly clarify and define civil rights less we prefer stoke the flames of the Watts riots all over again.

The purpose of civil rights laws is to deter government and its agents from using their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights. Last time I checked, broadband access providers were not agents of the federal government. Broadband access providers, as much as the Federal Communications Commission would like them to be, are not even common carriers, like hotels or trains are. Congress wanted to provide for civil remedies where state action resulted in the violation of constitutional rights.

So, if government, federal, state, or local, ordered or allowed discrimination by broadband access providers against content providers, that would be a civil rights violation. If government provided broadband service directly but only allowed certain content providers to use it, then you would have a civil rights violation. If broadband access providers were common carriers (which they are not) and denied you access to service, then you would have a civil rights violation. None of these scenarios exist.

Envisioning a world that could be under universal broadband access does not create a constitutional right. Net neutrality, however, may be the very source of civil rights violations that net neutrality proponents allegedly want us to avoid.

Establishing a rule where a broadband access provider is required to disclose network management information to the public, I would argue, violates that provider’s free speech. Corporations, much to the chagrin of the far left, do have the limited constitutional right of free speech. It would be ironic that we would trample on the existing constitutional rights of broadband access providers in order to protect a civil right for content providers that does not exist.

I did pretty well in philosophy but even that question of existentialism is a bit much for me to wrap my head around.

Dr. King preached a message of tolerance and equality but even he, after a long night on the road marching for our civil rights, would have found it a bit unconscionable to pay one-star room rates for a five-star room.