Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D, CO) is fighting the good fight against a distasteful coalition of Internet merchandisers who want to stifle innovation. She points out the irony of a collection of companies who’ve profited from the free and open network seeking to impose draconian regulations on cable companies:
Much of the commercial success of the Internet came because there was little government restriction on how companies could operate or expand in this new market. For much of this period, the companies that thrived off of the Internet embraced the absence of federal regulation as one of the keys to their success. They have fought efforts by states to impose sales taxes on Internet purchases, opposed suggestions that the federal government establish standards for broadband, and argued against antitrust lawsuits by the Department of Justice that they asserted would cripple innovation.
But, in a switch that only students of public policy with a strong taste for irony could appreciate, these same companies that supported an absence of regulation, and succeeded because of it, are now clamoring for the federal government to impose its will on the Internet.
These companies, including Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo, created the misnamed Coalition for Broadband Users and Innovators (CBUI) to push federal regulators to create new government rules that would prevent some broadband providers from teaming with other companies to offer consumers joint products and services.
The CBUI is a lobbying group funded by Microsoft, AOL, Disney, Apple, Amazon, Ebay, and a host of similar ilk. Larry Lessig is apparently in their employ as he was a featured speaker at a presentation they made in Washington, DC, earlier this year. He naturally attacks Congresswoman DeGette on his blog as a “cable lobbyist” in an outstanding example of the pot calling the kettle black.
Given the track record of the CBUI members, I’d be hesitant to endorse any plan they put forward. These companies have, after all, done more damage to the Internet than any other collection of businesses one could assemble, and the net effect of the regulations they propose would be to stifle innovation on the Internet infrastructure and ossify it as the pathetically inefficient network it is today, in perpetuity.
Face it, all Ebay, Amazon and the others want to do with the Internet is use it as a gigantic catalog order system. They don’t want e-mail that’s free of spam, they don’t want real-time applications like VoIP and Video on Demand, they don’t want mobility; all they want is secure credit card transactions and lots of eyeballs on their pages because people have no place to go that’s any more interesting than an Ebay auction.
Cable TV networks are large, complicated, and expensive, and they’re never going to grow toward full broadband with QoS if their business model is continually assaulted by lobbyists representing companies with no stake in their evolution because they’re doing so well today.
The Internet need not be about consumers spending money on crap they don’t need. It can be about advanced communication and entertainment, but it will never grow in that direction as long as these short-sighted profiteers have their way.
Did I mention Lessig’s working for Disney in this battle? He is.