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Crawford on the FCC…

Susan Crawford of Cardoza Law, who organized the Bellhead/Nethead conference I blogged on Tuesday, writes her own “take-away” from the event:

What I wanted to do with Bellhead/Nethead was focus attention on a hard question: who should be in charge of the internet? I emerged with the sense that it is time to stop being incrementalist about this question. It’s apparent that the FCC’s current statute doesn’t fit internet services well. On the other hand, it’s not clear to me that we should rewrite the act to fit the internet better. And tweaking around the edges of the act just isn’t working (and won’t work).

We need to, as a country, take a firm stand and reaffirm the message of 47 USC 230: no special-purpose meddling…

(Susan says nice things about my blogging. Ignore it. It was lousy, minimally reflective live-blogging. Worse, complimenting me means I can’t tell you about the esteem in which I hold her without it sounding like tit for tat. I’ll save that pleasure for another day.)

4 Responses to “Crawford on the FCC…”

  1. While I think the question “Who should be in charge of the Internet?” is a fascinating one, framing the question as a “Bellhead/Nethead” one seems to miss a much larger issue: as the Internet becomes mission critical for all aspects of human life, governments around the world are going to intervene and start regulating the medium in a serious way. That’s the promise and threat of the World Summit on the Information Society – as world governments realize this new medium matters, they want to ensure that they’ve got a hand in governing it. Predictably, this freaks out both netheads and bellheads, neither of whom have a great deal of confidence in the UN’s ability to set technical standards… but it’s equally unsettling for the government of Ghana to discover that they don’t control the “.gh” domain name and that the process for reclaiming their property is governed by an organization that they – rightly or wrongly – don’t see themselves adequately represented by.

    Whether or not the ITU tries to take over ICANN, there’s a serious fight over internet governance at the moment that’s WAY broader than the FCC versus the greybeards. The US has generally taken a hands-off approach to the Internet, assuming that unfettered market forces will do a better job of setting standards than the government. That’s unlikely to be the attitude many world governments take…

    I see from the conference agenda that the gathering appeared to be a conversation about American regulation of the ‘net. Is that the best way to frame a conversation about an inherently international medium?

  2. Thanks, Ethan. It’s good to be reminded of the broader context. But there’s _also_ a fight with the FCC that needs to be won. That’s what this conference was about.

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