11 May 2006

Save those internets

Via Yglasias, I see that Lawrence Lessig—who will be appointed head of the FCC in the Miniver Cheevy Administration, if I ever get elected President—wrote an excellent article on the subject of network neutrality for The American Prospect some time ago. As ever, his writing is as illuminating about deep legal theory as it is about the subject at hand.
There is deep confusion about the idea of “regulation” within our political culture and about its relationship to innovation and the Internet. The fashion is to say that regulation harms innovation; that government-backed rules undermine creativity; that the best or most effective policy for regulators is, as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman William Kennard put it, to allow the “marketplace to find business solutions ... as an alternative to intervention by government.” Any talk about “regulating” cyberspace invites the breathless reply of the impatient young Capitol Hill staffer: Cyberspace was born in the absence of regulation. Don't kill it with regulation now.

This attitude is profoundly mistaken. It betrays an extraordinary ignorance about the history of the Internet, and this ignorance threatens to undermine the innovation that the Internet has made possible. Innovation has always depended upon a certain kind of regulation; the greatest examples of innovation in our recent past evince this reliance. And unless we begin to see the relationship between this type of rule and the innovation it promotes, we are likely to kill the promise of the Internet.

As for net neutrality, well, you know what to do.

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