Today marks the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web entering the public domain. To mark the occasion, CERN — the research group that made the web as we know it possible — has relaunched the world’s first website at its original URL. The image above is what the page looked like, but check it out in all its sparse glory on your own.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. We at IIA have a strong connection to the Act, as our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher, then chair of the subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, was a player in drafting the Act and getting it passed.
Interestingly — though the Act is often tied to the growth of the Internet here in America — the word “Internet” was only mentioned in one section (and ironically, that section was later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court). Instead, the main focus of the Act was to encourage new competition in local and long-distance telephone markets, as well as television. And since its signing into law, it’s not an understatement to say there has been a major disruption in the both the telephone and television markets. The rise of the Internet — spurred by the life-changing benefits of broadband that have led to widespread availability and adoption of the technology — has changed the way we work, entertain ourselves, and communicate with each another (although our nation still has a way to go until everyone is connected).
Seventeen years is a long time, and when it comes to the speed of the evolution of technology, 1996 might as well be the Dark Ages. As the telecommunications industry makes the seismic shift to all IP-networks — a transition that will usher in the full power of the Internet Age — it’s worth appreciating how important the 1996 Telecommunication Act was at the time of its adoption. It’s also important to recognize just how much the market has changed around market players subject to certain regulations in the Act.
If we’re going to fully embrace the power of current and future technology, the 1996 Telecommunications Act may not be still be relevant in many cases. Fortunately, provisions that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to forbear from applying certain regulations were included in Section 10 of the legislation (real-life forbearance example: the decision to not regulate investment and deployment of fiber-based facilities in the network). IIA hopes that the Commission will take note—we’ve come a long way but still need to catch up to today.
Last week, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman appeared on a panel as part of the State of the Net in Washington, D.C. The discussion, “The Internet Leadership Challenge: Restoring America to Economic Greatness Through Sound Internet Policy,” was moderated by Joe Waz, Senior Strategic Adviser to the Comcast Corporation. Also on the panel were Blair Levin, Communications & Society Fellow, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.
Here’s video of the discussion, which touches on President Obama’s legacy, taxation of the Internet, and the transition from legacy networks to all-IP.
Over at the Huffington Post, Olivier Dumon looks at how the Internet has revolutionized research and academic publishing. His entire post is worth digging into, but here’s a taste:
Collaboration between researchers in different countries, of the kind we take for granted today, would have been unheard of even as late as WWII. But the decline of the Cold War saw laboratory walls melt away, as a global economy and the rise of the multinational corporation, increased competition and the need to access the best scientific talent in order to build modern economies and address problems that are now global in nature. More than 35 percent of all research papers published today document active international collaboration, a 40 percent increase from 15 years ago and double since 1990. China dominates in cross-border collaborations; Japan and the E.U. are second and third.
Yesterday at the International Telecoms Union (ITU) conference in Dubai, a victory was chalked up for freedom as a draft treaty that would give government greater control over the Internet was shot down. As Charles Arthur of The Guardian reports:
The US was first to declare its opposition to the draft treaty. “It is with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that I have to announce that the United States must communicate that it is unable to sign the agreement in its current form,” Terry Kramer, head of the US delegation, told the conference, after what had looked like a final draft was approved.
“The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU Treaty that is inconsistent with the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance.”
The US was joined in its opposition by the UK, Canada, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Qatar and Sweden. All said they would not sign the proposed final text, meaning that although a number of other countries will sign it, the treaty cannot be effectively implemented.
Matt Smith and Joseph Menn of Reuters report on some positive signs for Internet freedom out of the ITU conference in Dubai:
Hopes rose on Tuesday for a compromise agreement that would keep intrusive government regulation of the Internet from being enshrined in a global treaty.
As a 12-day conference of the International Telecommunication Union drew near its Friday closing, the chairman of the gathering in Dubai circulated a draft that sidelined proposals from Russia, China and other countries that have been seeking the right to know where each piece of Internet traffic comes from.
“The United States believes it is the basis for any further progress toward reaching an agreement at this conference,” said U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, who had led Western opposition to the earlier proposals.
The United States has been strongly against giving government more oversight of the Internet — so much so that even both Democrats and Republicans have agreed.
Beginning today in Dubai, close to 200 nations are meeting to discuss the future of the Internet. At Wired, David Kravets previews the discussion:
The idea behind the meetings is to update the International Telecommunications Regulations governed by the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency known as the ITU, that is responsible for global communication technologies.
But the outcome of the two-week session isn’t likely to make much change, as no proposal will be accepted if not agreed to by all nations. And the biggest fear — that the session will lead to net censorship — has already come to pass.
The 193 nations at the meeting have put forward more than 900 proposed regulatory changes covering the Internet, mobile roaming fees and satellite and fixed-line communications. Broad consensus is needed for any item to be adopted for any changes — the first major review of the U.N.‘s telecommunications agenda since 1988, well before the Internet age.
The gathering is also powerless to force nations to change their Internet policies, such as China’s notorious “Great Firewall” and widespread blackouts of political opposition sites in places including Iran and the Gulf Arab states. Last week, Syria’s Internet and telephone services disappeared for two days during some of the worst fighting in months to hit the capital, Damascus.
Over two billion people are already online, representing about a third of the planet. And, yes, spreading that access further is a good goal, but the ITU is not the player to do it. The reason that the internet has been so successful and has already spread as far as it has, as fast as it has, is that it hasn’t been controlled by a bureaucratic government body in which only other governments could vote. Instead, it was built as an open interoperable system that anyone could help build out. It was built in a bottom up manner, mainly by engineers, not bureaucrats. Changing that now makes very little sense.
Besides, does anyone really think that a process that requires the companies who successfully innovated to funnel money to corrupt governments and/or corrupt state-controlled telcos is going to magically lead to greater investment in internet growth?
You can read IIA’s position on International control of the Internet here.
The Washington Post‘s Cecilia Kang has the goods on a new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau that measures the effect the ad-supported Internet has on the economy:
The IAB-commissioned report from Harvard Business School, which updated a similar 2009 report, found Internet-based companies in every congressional district in the United States. About 2 million people are directly employed by Internet ad-supported firms, the report said.
An additional 3.1 million jobs, including those in Internet advertising and digital advertising analysis, would not exist without the sector.
All told, the economy benefited by $530 billion last year alone, according to the report.
Yesterday, over 80 countries — including the U.S. — backed a United Nations resolution protecting the freedom of the Internet. The resolution...
...Affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice, in accordance with articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
Recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet as a driving force in accelerating progress towards development in its various forms;
Calls upon all States to promote and facilitate access to the Internet and international cooperation aimed at the development of media and information and communications facilities in all countries;
Encourages special procedures to take these issues into account within their existing mandates, as applicable;
Decides to continue its consideration of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet and in other technologies, as well as of how the Internet can be an important tool for development and for exercising human rights, in accordance with its programme of work.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt called the resolution a “victory for the Internet,” writing:
The vote in Geneva on Thursday was a breakthrough of fundamental importance. Beyond affirming that freedom of expression applies also to the Internet, the resolution also recognized the immense value the Internet has for global development and called on all states to facilitate and improve global access to it.
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a resolution — put forward by Rep. Bono Mack — that officially opposed Internet governance by international entities. Today, Senators Claire McCaskill and Marco Rubio put forward their own resolution. From McCaskill’s website:
Citing the potential impacts on internet freedom and on technology jobs in the U.S., McCaskill and Rubio are leading a Senate resolution to make clear that the United States opposes allowing any international body or foreign country to have jurisdiction over internet management or regulation. A strengthened version of the resolution was introduced today, with the backing of Senators John McCain (R-AZ), John Kerry (D-MA), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Non-profit, non-governmental entities currently regulate and oversee the Internet, keeping the global network out of reach of any one government or international body. However, recent proposals-including some by the governments of Russia, China, and Iran-would turn some of the most critical Internet functions over to the United Nations, which could negatively affect innovation and dramatically expand the power of foreign countries to limit or censor speech within their borders.
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved a resolution against international regulation of the Internet. As Brendan Sasso of The Hillreports, this drew praise from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski:
“Proposals to abandon the multistakeholder model would be devastating to the future of the Internet, and I will continue to work with my colleagues at the FCC and throughout the U.S. government to oppose such proposals,” Genachowski said in a statement.
It’s exciting to see leaders such as Chairman Genachowski and Commissioner McDowell taking such a strong leadership role – on behalf of our nation—to protect the Internet from international regulation. The multistakeholder model, rooted in Internet freedom, has been critical to economic development and societal progress across the globe. These encouraging bipartisan efforts to keep the Internet open and free from oversight and control should also be reflected domestically—the innovations that have improved millions of lives and the information-sharing that has unlocked educational opportunities, economic growth and societal advancement depend on an unregulated Internet open to all, at home and abroad.
Via Read Write Web (and everywhere else, really), comes the story of the 68-year-old bus monitor bullied by a pack of middle schoolers, the YouTube video that became a viral sensation, and the close to $200,000 kind souls on the Internet have raised to send the bullied woman on the vacation of a lifetime.
At the California Majority Report, Steve Maviglio writes about how the California Public Utilities Commission is trying to kill legislation that would prevent the commission from regulating the Internet:
The flash point is legislation (SB 1161) introduced by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) that would prevent the PUC from regulating the Internet unless the Legislature authorizes it to do so. The PUC seems to be pulling out all the stops to try to scuttle the legislation, and is widely expected to take a formal position against the bill when it meets on Thursday.
Fireworks over the PUC’s attempt at internet regulation already have begun. Most notably, when the PUC issued a fiscal analysis of the bill early last week that it sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. To nearly everyone’s amazement, the PUC said it would cost the agency more than $1 billion not to regulate the Internet.
The whole, bizarre story is worth checking out — especially, as Maviglio points out, California Governor Jerry Brown recently told Silicon Valley his office was looking to reduce regulations.
A new report from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism (via Read Write Web) finds that online news consumption has surpassed newspapers for the first time. Only local television news still leads the Internet when it comes to people getting news.
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