Everyone Out of the Internet!

by on June 8, 2012 · 8 comments

During the 1970’s, I remember a bumper sticker that summed up the prevailing anti-colonial attitude that had developed during the late 1960’s:  “U.S. Out of North America.”

That sentiment reflects nicely my activities this week, which include three articles decrying efforts by regulators to oversee key aspects of the Internet economy.  Of course their intentions—at least publicly—are always good.  But even with the right idea, the unintended negative consequences always overwhelm the benefits by a wide margin.

Governments are just too slow to respond to the pace of change of innovations in information technology.  Nothing will fix that.  So better just to leave well enough alone and intercede only when genuine consumer harm is occurring.  And provable.

The articles cover the spectrum from state (California), federal (FCC) and international (ITU) regulators and a wide range of  truly bad ideas, from the desire of California’s Public Utilities Commission to “protect” consumers of VoIP services, to the FCC’s latest effort to elbow its way into regulating broadband Internet access at the middle milel, to a proposal from European telcos to have the U.N. implement a tariff system on Internet traffic originating from the U.S.

 Here they are:

  1. “Government Control of the Net is Always a Bad Idea” (CNET) – http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57446383-38/government-control-of-net-is-always-a-bad-idea/?tag=mncol;cnetRiver
  2. “The FCC Noses Under the Broadband Internet Tent” (Forbes) – http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2012/06/06/the-fcc-noses-under-the-broadband-internet-tent/
  3. “U.N. Could Tax U.S.-based Websites, Leaked Docs Show” (CNET) – http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57449375-83/u.n-could-tax-u.s.-based-web-sites-leaked-docs-show/?tag=mncol;topStories

That third one, by the way, was written with CNET’s Chief Political Correspondent Declan McCullagh.  It represents a genuine scoop, based on leaked documents posted by TLFers Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado on WCITLeaks.org!

  • txpatriot

    I’m no fan of the UN but there is no such thing as a “UN tax”.  Maybe foreiign countries will tax international carriers for delivering Internet traffic, but it certainly won’t be the UN (or ITU).

  • Anonymous

     Yes, as I said and is clear from the article, the European telcos are proposing that the U.N. treaty (the ITRs) be amended to require “sending network pays” arrangements.  It won’t be the UN collecting the tax, but the UN will enforce the requirement.

  • txpatriot

    Larry your c|net article is even worse; the headline says the UN could TAX American WEBSITES. 

    Of course the leaked documents say nothing of the sort.  At best, it will be countries taxing carriers, but in no event will the UN levy a fee directly on a website.

    Who the heck wrote the headline?  Did they even read the documents?

  • Anonymous

     Life is easy when you only read the headlines and stop there.  Why don’t you read the article?

  • txpatriot

    I read the article Larry. 

    The very first sentence repeats the falsehood that the UN is considering an “Internet tax”.  You know darn well the UN has no taxing authority.  And the article confuses international settlements with a tax (you DO know the difference, right?). 

    Tell you what: show me ANYPLACE in the posted documents where the ITU is targeting a “tax” at American websites and I’ll eat my hat.

    You DID read the documents before you wrote your article, right?

  • txpatriot

    Larry I want to apologize for my last post.  

    If I could delete it I would.  I think you and I agree that additional involvement by the UN in Internet governance isn’t needed.  The point I was trying to make was that I think some of the media got carried away in their reporting of this issue.  In fact, I let myself get carried away in this discussion and let it get personal..  

    I didn’t mean to do that, and for that I apologize.  

  • Miton Mueller

    A more accurate discussion of the ETNO proposal and the so-called “internet tax” can be found here: http://www.internetgovernance.org/2012/06/09/threat-analysis-of-wcit-part-3-charging-you-charging-me/

  • http://www.trevorjonesvo.com/ Julianne

    I remember a bumper sticker that summed up the prevailing anti-colonial
    attitude that had developed during the late 1960’s:  “U.S. Out of North
    America.”

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