At CES last week, we conducted an informal survey asking attendees how the government should ensure universal broadband availability and adoption. The results offered an interesting snapshot of how tech-savvy crowd viewed the issue.
Of the 259 people who took the survey, 31% picked “Minimize regulation, taxation and government oversight of innovators, entrepreneurs, and private companies” as most important. 19% picked “Reduce taxes on telecom services that are naked into consumers’ broadband bills.” And “Reform Universal Service rules to start subsidizing broadband and stop subsidizing plain old telephone service” was chosen by 15%.
Rounding out the survey, 8% of survey takers felt it was most important that the government should pass net neutrality regulations, while just 6% supported digital literacy for the poor and communities of color.
Sphere has an interesting debate today on the FCC’s proposed net neutrality rules. In the pro camp, Timothy Karr writes:
Because of net neutrality, consumers have had unfettered access to new content and ideas online; our preferences and choices have determined which new ideas succeed and which don’t. Net neutrality simply means “no discrimination,” and this user-powered architecture is the reason the Internet has become such a powerful engine for consumer choice and democratic empowerment.
These protections have worked brilliantly. For two decades, the Internet thrived. It became a competitive market in the truest sense. Under net neutrality, doctoral students working out of their dorm room created Google; college students started Facebook; a Pez hobbyist invented eBay; an Israeli teenager wrote the code for instant messaging.
These innovators started small and used the Internet’s level playing field to become major forces in the new media marketplace. Their ideas have disrupted the status quo of information gatekeepers to usher in an era where content and consumers are king.
The fact is that different services have different requirements in order to work properly. Activities like online videos or remote medical monitoring are easily disrupted by tiny delays—often measured in milliseconds—that keep them from working properly. Others, like e-mail, tolerate delays with little problem.
To ensure the best performance possible, network operators need the flexibility to work with the providers of content, software developers, creators of online games, and other Internet-related businesses and services. But proposed Internet regulations under consideration at the FCC would greatly limit such collaboration.
Supporters of Internet regulations, typically advocated to ensure “network neutrality,” say regulations are needed to make sure that consumers can go to whatever Web site they want. But when was the last time that your Internet provider blocked you from any activity you wanted to perform online? Chances are you’ve never had that problem. And if it occurred, the FCC already has the authority to step in quickly and clear things up.
As online movie giant Netflix continues to evolve from mail service to a streaming one, it continues to increase the number of devices that carry it. The latest gadget to embrace streaming movies with the company? Nintendo’s gaming juggernaut Wii.
Yesterday, Google revealed that it had been the victim of a sophisticated cyber attack from China, and that one of the goals of the attack appears to have been accessing the Gmail accounts of human rights activists. In the wake of the attack, Google has announced it will end its controversial practice of censoring search results in China, and may be ending its business ties to the nation altogether:
We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that “we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.”
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered—combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web—have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.
Reactions to Google’s announcement have, for the most part, been positive. But Sarah Lacy at TechCrunch believes that while the human rights angle is worth applauding, at the end of the day Google’s decision may be more about business:
Does anyone really think Google would be doing this if it had top market share in the country? For one thing, I’d guess that would open them up to shareholder lawsuits. Google is a for-profit, publicly-held company at the end of the day. When I met with Google’s former head of China Kai-fu Lee in Beijing last October, he noted that one reason he left Google was that it was clear the company was never going to substantially increase its market share or beat Baidu. Google has clearly decided doing business in China isn’t worth it, and are turning what would be a negative into a marketing positive for its business in the rest of the world.
As part of the discussion surrounding proposed net neutrality regulations, IIA has submitted a comment to the FCC. Click here to read our thoughts. You can also upvote our comment and increase its visibility.
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