Previously in the Tech at Night series we saw CLIP, the Communications Liberty and Innovation Project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A group talking tech with a slogan like “Liberty drives Innovation” is one that interests me.
So now we have a brief email interview with Fred Campbell, Director of CLIP.
Tech at Night: What are your biggest policy concerns today?
Fred Campbell: The two biggest concerns are calls for international regulation of the Internet and the ongoing spectrum crisis.
China and Russia are trying to seize control of the Internet from the United States through the United Nations. The International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the UN that governs international telephone services, is meeting this December to consider expanding its authority to include the Internet. Some nations have already proposed limiting Internet privacy rights, imposing international network standards, and taxing international Internet usage. Ceding control of these issues to authoritarian governments would destroy the free market foundations that made the Internet a success and weaken liberty throughout the world. If these nations have their way, it would limit future innovation, slow economic growth, and chill political expression.
The other big issue concerns the mobile Internet. CTIA reports that, as of December 2011, there were over 331 million wireless connections in the US, and, according to the FCC, more smartphones were sold in 2011 than PCs. The result is a massive increase in the use of mobile data services by businesses and consumers, which is turning the Internet into the mobile Internet. Mobile Internet growth is driving innovation across all communications sectors from app developers and mobile content providers to mobile service providers. The same growth that is helping drive our economy is also creating a need for more mobile spectrum. Mobile devices use this spectrum, also known as radio waves, to connect to the Internet. When consumers use their mobile devices more, the increased usage also uses more spectrum, and we are starting to run out. According to Cisco, mobile data traffic grew 133 percent in 2011, and is expected to grow another 18-fold by 2016. We need more spectrum to meet the increase in demand, but the government controls our nation’s spectrum resources, and it’s moving too slowly on this issue. The lack of spectrum is already beginning to have an adverse impact on consumers, and it’s going to get much worse if we don’t act now. We have to start moving a lot faster on spectrum issues.
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This edition of Tech at Night is unfortunately delayed. It’s almost 4am now as I’m able to start this (7am eastern) because I had a bout of Net Neutrality to deal with. All websites loaded at the same speed on my DSL: zero. Total downtime.
So, late or not, let’s go. As I warned on Monday, Net Neutrality is forcing ISPs like AT&T to impose reasonable caps on their services. Known freeloader Netflix demands that AT&T users who don’t use Netflix subsidize those who do, which is of course completely unfair, which is why AT&T isn’t allowing it. Anyway, the rate caps aren’t that small, and $10 per 50GB over isn’t bad at all. Ask any wireless Internet user what you’ll get for $10.
More FCC power grabs are on the way, it seems. The FCC has what you might call a conflict of interest: the wireless market must be declared non-competitive for the FCC to be allowed to intervene. Who decides whether that market is competitive or not though? Yup, the FCC. So Fred Campbell warns that the FCC may ignore the Congress and just say whatever it takes to do whatever it wants. Boy am I glad we have Republicans in DC who are on top of the FCC already. This may take swift action to combat.
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