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It's the Internet stupid


By Scott Bradner


Last week I co-signed a response to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry on developing a national broadband plan for the US.  The gist of the response is simple -- high speed connectivity should not be the goal, high speed connectivity to what we have come to know as the Internet should be the goal.  This sounds like a no-brainer but that is far from the case.


The FCC published the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) ( on April 8 and asked for comments by June 8th.  The NOI was in response to a requirement buried in the 400 page American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) (i.e, the stimulus bill)  The bill directs the FCC to deliver a National Broadband Plan to Congress by February 17, 2010 and the FCC wanted to know what people thought should be in such a plan.


The response I co-signed ( was developed by Internet pundit David Isenburg  ( with help from a bunch of folks including Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase and writer David Weinberger.  It was co-signed by about 40 Internet-active folks.  It should not have been necessary to say what this response says because one would think that anyone looking at what Congress asked for and knowing anything about history would have assumed that expanding high-speed connectivity to the Internet should be the goal of the national broadband plan.  But, many of the organizations that now bring the internet to most people in their homes do not see the Internet, as it has been deployed as all that much of a good thing.


The FCC has not yet posted any responses to the NOI (at least I can not find them if they have) so I do not know what the carriers have responded but if their strong anti-net-neutrality positions in the past are any hint I would expect that the carriers want federal money but no openness rules to go along with the money.  And its not just the carriers - some content providers would also like to not have an open Internet - ESPN, for example, is now trying to force ISPs to pay for its content (


The economics of the Internet is not an easy topic to understand in the best of times and having the government wave money is not the best way to create a rational discussion.  A rational discussion is just what mathematician Andrew Odlyzko has recently published in a paper titled "Network neutrality, search neutrality, and the never-ending conflict between efficiency and fairness in markets."  (  Odlyzko covers a lot of ground in this paper but one recurring thread is the carrier's inability to properly evaluate the strengths and value of their networks.  This inability will undoughtably color their responses to the NOI.


The response I co-signed urges the FCC to ensure that any federal money be spent to extend the Internet and not to enable new carrier walled gardens.  There is a place for you to sign if you agree.


disclaimer: Harvard uses the Internet (a lot) but has not expressed an opinion on this NOI so the support is mine alone.