Getting past telecom

While unscrewing bad Internet policy probably isn’t top priority for the Administration-in-Waiting, it’s pretty high up there for me, and for quite a few other ‘Net obsessives out there.

In fact, I heard through the grapevine that the Obama transition team was looking for some Big Input to the Internet policy mill, due today.

A couple weeks back I floated FORWARD WITH FIBER: An Infrastructure Investment Plan for the New Administration. It’s a kind of Interstate Highway proposal, audacious in two respcts: 1) it proposes spending a few hundred billion on capacious fiber-based infrastructure that reaches everybody, or close enough; 2) It embraces rather than excludes the carriers that are already in the middle of this thing.

Regardless of what we do, we must liberate the Net (including the carriers) from telecom reguation. It’s too new, too different, and too important to be shackled by the boat-anchors of the 1934 and 1996 telecom acts — and by addenda to those acts, even if they are meant to improve existing law on behalf of the Net.

The Net needs a Declaration of Independence. John Perry Barlow’s (on the day the ’96 act passed) was inspiring in its day (and still rings true), but now we need something on which new policy can be built: policy that respects not only the freedom and openness of the Net, but of the markets that grow on the Net’s infrastructure.

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8 Responses to Getting past telecom

  1. Mike Warot says:

    Here’s what I said….
    The Internet is still in it’s infancy, it’s entirely likely that the applications and protocols that the majority of us will find most valuable ten years from now have not even been thought of yet. It’s thus very important to make the internet a level playing field, to allow it to continue to be a fertile field for growing new ideas, and new prosperity.

    To do this, we should encourage Internet access for all Americans. One very low cost way is to help encourage a culture that shares this resource. The recent FCC rulings concerning “White Space” or unused radio channels are a great step forward. We should also encourage the FCC and others to allow communities that wish to build their own Internet infrastructure, instead of forcing them to wait for one of the incumbent monopoly providers to decide it’s worthwhile.

    The Internet was meant to be shared, anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.

  2. dave says:


    Why dont you submit that here –

  3. Pingback: The White House CTO - Web 2.0 need not apply

  4. RBM says:

    Some changes at

    Over the weekend President-elect Barack Obama scrubbed, his transition Web site, deleting most of what had been a massive agenda copied directly from his campaign Web site.

  5. Jerry says:

    That idea looks a lot like socialism. To get high speed internet to everyone, the barriers for businesses to provide that service have to be erased. Those barriers are 1] access to right of ways to lay fiber 2] telecom rules that are centered around preserving a monopoly on #1.

    Around here, County A is hell to get fiber laid. They have fees, and they fight it at every step….. and then they get tax revenue off that fiber, every year once it’s in the ground. Makes no sense. County B is all about laying fiber. They invite everyone to do it for basically zero cost (other than the recurring tax revenue).

    Government needs to say “Ok, everyone can lay fiber.” and “We won’t hold you to the telecom laws if you go lay fiber in to someone else’s territory.”

  6. Mike Warot says:

    Jerry, I think calling everything the government does Socialism just falls flat, the red scare is over.

    The transcontinental railroad wouldn’t exist without the land grants and finance guarantees from the government. We’d still be changing trains where the gauge changed.

    You’d also not have the US highway system without massive support from the Feds. Your car wouldn’t have many places to go without paying tolls at every turn.

    Government is there to push change that is too big for private industry. Just like rural electrification, we need rural broadband.

  7. Oh, gosh, Mike, I’d hate to be as wrong as you. I’d have trouble finding the bathroom in the morning.

    Fundamentally, Socialism is any kind of coerced collective action. That would be most of what a government does. Technically Socialism used to have the replacement of markets with government planning, but even socialists have gotten over that idea. Have you?

    Look up the history of the Great Northern Railroad. It was the only transcon that didn’t get land grants, and NOT coincidentally, the only one which never went bankrupt.

    Railroads built multiple gauges for good reasons, and when the standard gauge overcame those reasons, they voluntarily regauged, like the Erie (broad gauge), or the Herkimer, Newport and Poland Railroad (narrow gauge).

    They also had a clever system for exchanging the trucks at a transition between narrow and standard gauge explicitly so that freight and passengers didn’t have to “change trains”.

    You *do* pay tolls at every turn on the U.S. highway system, through federal gas taxes. Drive a mile, use up some gas, pay some tax.

    How do we know that the change that the government wants is desirable? Because people voted for it? It costs nothing to vote to spend other people’s money. The way that you find out if a “change that is too big” is when private industry pays for it because it expects customers to desire it more than that. Short of that, you cannot conclude that government is doing the right thing.

    If you want rural broadband, build it yourself. You have a fantastic lifestyle, with quiet, clean air, cheap land, big skies, and low crime. Don’t come whinging to us about your need for bandwidth on TOP of those benefits. To get a 3pt hitch cable plow, put it behind a big tractor, and plow down some fiber. Stop asking someone else to pay for something that you are unwilling to buy.

    Wow. Not a single fact correct. Sucks to be you, doesn’t it?

  8. Oh, and it was SUCH a great idea to pay the two railroads to build their railroad that once they made contact with each other, they kept building another 16 miles. You can still see the duplicate railbeds. Here’s a good aerial photo of them:,-112.58774&z=17&t=S&marker0=41.58381%2C-112.58868%2C5.4%20km%20SW%20of%20Golden%20Spike%20National%20Historic%20Site%20UT&marker1=41.58264%2C-112.58774%2C5.4%20km%20SW%20of%20Golden%20Spike%20National%20Historic%20Site%20UT
    or here, where they’re both marked on the topo map:,-112.67921&z=15&t=T

    Railroads and fiber optic cable have very similar economic characteristics.

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