Cafe Witness

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Notes from the FCC Hearing on the Future of the Internet

If you couldn't be at yesterday's FCC hearing at Carnegie Mellon University, here's what you missed:

* Over 45 minutes of keynotes to open the hearing, in which all 5 commissioners + Representative Mike Doyle thanked each other for being there (repeatedly), then told the audience what we were all about to hear (also repeatedly). We spent so much time talking about what we were about to hear, I barely had time to hear anything at all.

* Internet pioneer and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban read from his laptop and told us that the future of the internet will be... 3-D?

* John Peha, a CMU professor, read from a Power Point presentation in which he raised numerous (legitimate) questions about fair competition, fair use and copyright infringement -- i.e., what happens when an ad for one cable company is embedded in a video streamed over a competing cable company's broadband? What's the difference between protecting one's brand and restricting user access to information?

* Mark Cavicchia (CEO of WhereverTV) spoke about the need to expand bandwidth limitations to allow for decreased restrictions on "capped limits" for broadband users. For example, under some proposed broadband service plans, you could expend your entire allotment of Gigabytes for the month just by downloading one (legal) movie file. That doesn't help anyone -- least of all the markets the film and internet industries are trying to establish.

* Nathan Martin from DeepLocal spoke at rapid speed about the regulatory issues constraining his company. Lots of good points, summed up with, "Why could we do "TASK X" 3 years ago, for free, and in a matter of days, whereas now it would cost us tens of thousands of dollars and take up to 6 months to be approved by regulatory commissions? You have the pipes; let me compete."

* David Eun from Google talked up the existence of YouTube as a repository for the most amazing educational content on the planet -- some valid points, but delivered in that kind of slow, belabored way that made me think he'd rather not be speaking on a panel.

And then it was 5:30 and I had to leave, even though the hearing would be stretching on until 8 o'clock. (Peripheral lesson learned? If the FCC can't even stick to a schedule when moderating a hearing, what else is the government unable to manage?) However, I was impressed with the rhetoric of the FCC commissioners themselves -- especially Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who (along with Rep. Doyle) gave me the best impression that the government is very aware of what's at stake in the internet's battle between private intellectual property, corporate interests and the public good.

Let's just hope they can solve these thorny problems in less time than it took to introduce these panels...

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  • That's very interesting. Apart from your notes, are you aware of any audio, video, or transcription of the speakers at this hearing?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:39 AM  

  • Steve: There were plenty of media folks in the auditorium for the FCC hearing, but I'm not sure where any of them were from. If I had to guess, I'd think CMU or the FCC website would have a transcript of the hearing somewhere...

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 11:55 AM  

  • I just have to say how wonderful it is that the FCC is staying within the purview of their charter. Aside from being boring and stating the obvious, it seems as though the good 'ole boys down in D.C. feel like overstepping their bounds again... I think we all know that some amount of regulation is required on the internet, but coming from the guys who have the once-a-decade spectrum auctions???

    Justin, was there any reason given for the FCC being there?

    BTW... Transcript on FCC's site...

    By Blogger Jason Cable, at 3:01 PM  

  • Jason: I haven't had time to formulate my usual conspiracy theories about why the FCC would have been at CMU, but the official word is that they've been going around the country these past few weeks to have public hearings and get feedback from the proletariat.

    That CMU is one of the government's leading suppliers of military innovation may have nothing to do with it. For now, I'll just believe that they actually want to hear what the people think, because the government occasionally admits it doesn't know everything about business issues like those involving the unwieldy internet.

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 3:18 PM  

  • HapiBlogging to you my friend! Have a nice day!

    By Blogger Chester, at 2:58 AM  

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