In the world of U.S. tech policy, few regulatory bodies are as closely watched as the Federal Communications Commission. While there's no shortage of tech journalists who follow the Commission's every move, relatively little is written about the personal viewpoints of the FCC's five Commissioners and how these appointed officials work together to determine FCC policy. In an interview with Ars Technica last week, two-term Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein offered a rare glimpse at the inner workings of the FCC and also spoke openly about the need for more transparency at the agency, his hopes for the next administration and how the FCC can better serve the public interest. His most insightful comments, however, were on the topic of Net Neutrality and how the battle for neutral networks is linked to the American tradition of decentralized media.
Adelstein is a historian by training and it shows–his comments on Net Neutrality (or as he likes to call it, “Internet freedom”) take into account the role that decentralization played in the development of the free press in this country, which subsequently spurred competition, innovation and entrepreneurialism. Adelstein sees the rise of Internet journalism as a part of this lineage and asserts that neutral broadband networks are the only way to protect and foster a free press.
The best hope for restoring the American legacy of localized, decentralized, entrepreneurial journalism is the rise of broadband networks. Anybody that stands in the way of Internet freedom is running against the spirit of America that stands for having people being able to express their own views. That really won't be tolerated by the American people.
I think the same spirit that mobilized the move against media consolidation is being tapped by this movement to protect Internet freedom, and we'll see the same level of public concern and the same overwhelming public sentiment in favor of Internet freedom and the same level of concern about anybody who would undercut that on the Internet.
Those of us who are in government need to be on the side of the public, we need to be on the side of American history, we need to be on the side of free speech and decentralized, localized, entrepreneurial means of expression, which the Internet represents.
Adelstein's case for Net Neutrality is definitely one of the strongest and most eloquently stated that I've yet seen. For those of us who support Net Neutrality legislation, it's quite encouraging to know that we've got an ally at the FCC who understands the importance of maintaining the Internet as an open platform. Be sure to check out the interview, if you haven't already.