Shrill Reactions

I’ve really been amazed by how shrill the reaction has been on the left to the Google-Verizon proposal. You’d think they’d set fire to the Internet Exchanges simply by proposing a starting point for some Congressional action to clarify the FCC’s role in broadband regulation and to establish a policy framework for the agency to enforce. I have some problems with some details of the framework myself, but I think it’s ridiculous not to take it as a constructive step. One of the GigaOm bloggers wrote a piece today titled: “Tech Companies, Google Sold You Out” (see my comment over there) that typifies the overreaction.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is totally insane. The proposed framework protects the openness that we have on the Internet today, and still leaves some wiggle room to improve it in the future. It correctly refrains from imposing hard-core regulations on mobile as we transition from 3G to 4G, where these issues may be moot anyway. That’s the course that the Europeans have been on with wireline open Internet regulations, and it’s working fine.

One of the really important points is that the proposal is an attempt to bring some clarity to the investment climate by clarifying the Internet’s legal status. It clearly places policy making in the hands of Congress rather than with a regulatory agency that should be more concerned with enforcement. The FCC has no clear directive from Congress today, and any policy framework needs to specify the agency’s marching orders.

The Internet is not a done deal, and it never will be, so any regulatory model that doesn’t permit change is non-starter. There are some things about this framework that I’d change if I were king of the world (making paid prioritization presumptively permissible, for one) but it’s the best proposal I’ve seen so far, by a long shot.