Senate Telecom Hearing

Tomorrow is the hearing on the telecom reform bill in the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee. Ben Scott of Free Press represents the pro-regulation side of the neutrality debate, and an array of speakers on various sides of the ISP and Telco spectrum. Scott’s a good choice to speak for the neuts because he’s easily confused. Here’s some nonsense he spewed in a sound bite on a fictitious report his employers released recently:

“The issue of Network Neutrality is about who will control the future of the Internet,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, who will testify on behalf of the consumer groups at the Senate hearing. “Will a handful of phone and cable behemoths dominate an anti-competitive marketplace and do away with the Internet as we know it? Or will consumers, content creators, educators and small businesses continue to enjoy a free, open and competitive Internet? Every major consumer organization in the country is committed to meaningful, enforceable Network Neutrality.”

The Big Lie here is that the COPE Act expands consumer choice, while his bill restricts it. It should be a good hearing. His organization funnels the money into the Save the Internet campaign, and one of their employees, Tim Karr, runs their Astro-blog.

Yesterday, I happened the see a video clip from the Annual Kos event in which Matt Stoller of MyDD tried to make a rousing argument in favor of regulation. He had to admit that he knows nothing about the issue of Telecom policy, which was interesting because the regulations he proposes don’t actually relate to telecom policy. They’re a new and unprecedented intervention into Internet routing and service plan regulation, a totally virgin territory for government regulators. Stoller admitted that it’s just a good guys vs. bad guys issue for him, one that’s lots of “fun”. You can see the video clip at Link TV’s web site by clicking here.

So my question is this: “should the US Congress take advice on virgin regulatory territory from someone who admits to knowing nothing about the subject matter?”

I’ve got a list of questions I’d ask if I were a member the Senate panel, which I’ll post later just for fun.

One of the more interesting things that’s come to the surface recently is that the high-profile Internet guys who are listed on the pro-regulation side have said things that indicate they’re actually opposed to the specific provisions of the Markey and Snowe-Dorgan bills. Tim Berners-Lee, for example, wrote on his blog that he believes it should be OK for ISPs to offer service plans optimized for QoS or not:

We may pay for a higher or a lower quality of service. We may pay for a service which has the characteristics of being good for video, or quality audio.

…but these bills forbid that level of consumer choice.

And then there’s the Vint Cerf paradox, where a guy who hasn’t worked as an actual engineer for over twenty years wants specific engineering regulations on the Internet, oh, and they just happen to benefit his current employer. He’s a Good Guy, so Matt Stoller loves him.

See Matt Sherman for some good links on today’s news, including a story on and an editorial in the Washington Post.