Copps: The “Public Interest” Requires Regulation of the Internet!

by on February 25, 2009 · 14 comments

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps declared yesterday in a speech celebrating the 75th anniversary of the FCC and the Communications Act, that it was time to think “more rigorously” about the impact of the migration of communications to the Internet and “how to ensure that as the Internet becomes our primary vehicle for communicating with one another, it protects the public interest and informs the civic dialogue that America depends on.”

“In the beginning was the Word,” said John Something-or-other.  Well, the word here is “public interest” and—make no mistake about it—this is the beginning of a wholesale attempt to impose the regulatory regime of the broadcast era onto the Internet.

As Adam Thierer has pointed out, the “public interest” is really no standard at all—just so much hot air.

  • dm

    In contrast to “hot air”, Thierer does mention some examples of public interest: “Among the expanded public interest responsibilities Croteau and Hoynes and other regulatory supporters endorse: public service announcements; expanding coverage of political campaigns, debates and developments; free (or lower-cost) campaign ad time; expanded “educational” or cultural programming (especially aimed at children); and expanded coverage of community affairs.“, though I believe that is in context of broadcasting.

    I don't see hot air there, well, except perhaps where it breathes life to democracy.

    However, I'm not sure where this sort of thinking applies to the Internet — beyond making sure that producers remain accessible to consumers (echoes of the network neutrality argument), and that consumers don't find themselves trapped in walled gardens when what they want is a public thoroughfare.

    I'm a bit surprised — when I started reading this blog I was a network neutrality agnostic (the difficulty to measure whether a network is non-neutral or merely mis-configured; the desirability of using profits from differentiated services to promulgate new sorts of services), but you've gone a long way in convincing me that network neutrality, with all its problems, is probably better than the alternative.

  • dm

    The afternoon's news brings in a bit more “hot air”:

    http://consumerist.com/5160187/identifying-your

    I don't know what the answer or remedy is, here. It's possible there isn't one. But it's not like the victim in this case can sign up with a competing X-box-live service and exert market forces on Microsoft to not interfere with speech in user-profiles.

  • dm

    … and yes, I'm aware “Free Speech” ends at the property line — the First Amendment is a restriction on government, not private parties like Microsoft and their Xbox-live service.

  • MikeRT

    There is little that any individual can do against any big organization. The reason libertarians shrug their shoulders at cases like this is because no one is coercing the lesbian to be part of the relationship. She doesn't have to be a Microsoft customer. If Microsoft's acts are coercive, then so is literally every other relationship on some level, at which rate we should just accept coercion as a fact of life and stop bitching about any loss of freedom.

  • dm

    “There is little that any individual can do against any big organization” is precisely why individuals turn to larger organizations (like governments) when liberties conflict.

    But, you're right that no one is forcing this woman to use the X-box-live service, so I acknowledge that it's a weak example.

  • dm

    “There is little that any individual can do against any big organization” is precisely why individuals turn to larger organizations (like governments) when liberties conflict.

    But, you're right that no one is forcing this woman to use the X-box-live service, so I acknowledge that it's a weak example.

  • dm

    The afternoon's news brings in a bit more “hot air”:

    http://consumerist.com/5160187/identifying-your

    I don't know what the answer or remedy is, here. It's possible there isn't one. But it's not like the victim in this case can sign up with a competing X-box-live service and exert market forces on Microsoft to not interfere with speech in user-profiles.

  • dm

    … and yes, I'm aware “Free Speech” ends at the property line — the First Amendment is a restriction on government, not private parties like Microsoft and their Xbox-live service.

  • MikeRT

    There is little that any individual can do against any big organization. The reason libertarians shrug their shoulders at cases like this is because no one is coercing the lesbian to be part of the relationship. She doesn't have to be a Microsoft customer. If Microsoft's acts are coercive, then so is literally every other relationship on some level, at which rate we should just accept coercion as a fact of life and stop bitching about any loss of freedom.

  • dm

    “There is little that any individual can do against any big organization” is precisely why individuals turn to larger organizations (like governments) when liberties conflict.

    But, you're right that no one is forcing this woman to use the X-box-live service, so I acknowledge that it's a weak example.

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