October 2, 2007

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In respect to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for IP-enabled services, Susan Crawford writes

  Thus, the IP NPRM suggests that the Commission views its regulatory authority as extending to end-user software, network hardware, corporate and community websites and more.

IP in this case refers to Internet Protocol, not Intellectual Property. Although, where the FCC is concerned, the distinction may be a fine one.

Meanwhile, Sprint Presses for Cheaper Access to Broadband Lines, in the Washington Post, tells a story too rarely revealed: that the biggest carriers are playing the scarcity game with the Internet’s backbones.

Of course, that’s their business and their right.

The big question is why they can’t think like Amazon, which loosed S3 and EC2 on the world as pure utilities. S3 is storage. EC2 is computation. Both cost who-knows-what to build. $Billions? Certainly in the many $millions. In any case Amazon serves them up as if they were oil and gas pipelines. And, because they are pure utilities, and affordable for anybody (with no distinction between “consumers” and “businesses”), they are a tide that lifts many boats of all kinds. Especially business.

Now think about it… If computing were regulated like communications, and Web services were deployed like telco and cableco services, Amazon and its competitors would live like zoo animals in the FCC’s regulatory habitat — and we’d all be paying top dollar for scarce centralized computing and storage services, probably run on behalf of “partners” in the “content” cartel. You, the customer, would be a mere consumer, producing nothing more than money exctracted from countless “billing events”. As for your business, your work, your power to produce in a networked world… Forget about it. There wouldn’t be that world. Just another few-to-many top-down distribution system for stuff you consume.

Instead of Web 2.O, we’d have TV 2.0. Which, come to think of it, is about what we get with “HD” TV.

If the carriers woke up, they’d look at the enormous ecosystem growing around Amazon’s utilities, and realize that the usage restrictions on the “last mile” and monopoly pricing of “backhaul” are preventing far more business than either enable — businesses that the carriers could also serve in ways that leverage benefits of incumbency other than squeezing maximized dollars out of minimized choice. Oh, and they’d find more ways to pay down the debt the took on when they built out their infrastructures in the first place.

But that’s not the way to bet. Instead, the better bet is more regulation, more favoritism, more ways for carriers to put a free market paint job on a captive market offering, while they work overtime to shove the Internet genie back in the pre-1984 bottle.

I’ve got more coming on this over at Linux Journal. But I’m also kinda under the weather and have a plane to catch soon. In any case, I’ll get it up as soon as I can.