See you in Washington

I’ve been asked to join a panel at the Congressional Internet Caucus’ short conference on the State of the Mobile Net on April 23rd. I’ll be on the last panel:

What Policy Framework Will Further Enable Innovation on the Mobile Net?

Richard Bennett, [bio forthcoming]
Harold Feld, Public Knowledge [bio]
Alexander Hoehn-Saric, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee [bio]
Larry Irving, Internet Innovation Alliance [bio]
Blair Levin, Stifel Nicolaus [bio]
Ben Scott, Free Press [bio]
Kevin Werbach, Wharton School of Business [bio]

I suspect we’ll spend the bulk of our time on the interaction between regulatory agencies, standards bodies, and industry groups. The case studies are how the process worked for Wi-Fi with the FCC opening up some junk spectrum, the IEEE 802.11 writing some rules, and the Wi-Fi Alliance developing compliance tests. In the UWB world, the model was a novel set of rules for high-quality spectrum followed by an IEEE 802.15.3a collapse and the subsequent attempt by the Wi-Media Alliance to save it. We probably will have UWB someday (wireless USB and Bluetooth 4.0 will both use it,) but the failure of the standards body was a major impediment.

With White Spaces up for grabs, we’d like to have something that’s at least as good as 802.11, but we really need to do a lot better.

Another topic of interest is whether mobile Internet access services should be regulated the same way that wireline services are regulated, and how we go about drafting that set of rules. The current state of the art is the 4 or 5 prongs of the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement, but these principles leave a lot to the imagination, as in all of the interesting questions about network management, QoS-related billing, third party payments, and the various forms of disclosure that may or may not be interesting.

The Internet is troubled by the fact that it’s worked pretty damn well for past 25 years, so there’s been no need to make major changes in its services model. It’s clear to me that some fairly disruptive upgrades are going to be needed in the near future, and we don’t want to postpone them by applying a legacy regulatory model to a network that’s not fully formed yet.

3 thoughts on “See you in Washington”

  1. Long ago, Henry David Thoreau stated the best policy as regards regulation and innovation: “Government of itself never furthered any enterprise, except by the alacrity with which it got out of the way.” It was true in the age of the pencil (which Thoreau made his fortune manufacturing) and is just as true today.

  2. “First do no harm,” and all that. In today’s climate, it’s getting harder and harder to make the argument that the best regulation is no regulation, even though it’s often true.

  3. Very true, Richard. It is interesting that Ben Scott of “Free Press” will be on the panel with you. Originally, Ben and his organization agreed that wireless was different, and that the reasonable network management practices for wireless services might be different than those for others. But now — perhaps having tasted blood after one of its former members — now a Senate staffer — was able to slip “network neutrality” language into the stimulus legislation — the group has hardened its position and is actively lobbying for “wireless network neutrality.”

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