What Silicon Valley Needs to Read to Learn What's Going on in Washington, D.C.


As much as those in Silicon Valley like to avoid politics, it’s becoming increasingly clear that if they want their companies to get ahead, they need to stay tuned to what’s going on in Washington. With that in mind, I’d like to point out three items worth reading today that cover what’s happening in our nation’s capital as it relates to any online business.

First up is The Hill’s interview with Rep. Rick Boucher, the man who will oversee the implementation of the National Broadband Plan if he stays in office. Boucher, the chairman of the House’s Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, is an influential congressman when it comes to broadband policy. He’s up for re-election this year in what’s expected to be a hotly contested race; in the interview he talks about a spectrum inventory bill, how he proposed weakening the plans to take broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband and how he intends to regulate online privacy.

Also in congressional news, Rep. Eric Massa, who was the New York representative that tried to ban tiered pricing by ISPs, resigned today. Stop the Cap provides more details, but Massa, who is battling cancer as well as allegations of ethical misconduct, was paying attention to the broadband consumer even if his legislative efforts there didn’t get very far.

Finally, for those who want to question the Federal Communication Commission’s authority to regulate the Internet — as well as get into a philosophical debate about the status of network transport — read this two-part blog post by Susan Crawford, a respected privacy advocate and the former co-lead on the FCC Agency Review team for the Obama-Biden transition team. Crawford writes about how the FCC, when it determined to regulate the cable companies differently from DSL providers because they provided services and not just transport, may have subsequently boxed itself in when it comes to its ability to regulate those cable providers.

Her second blog post on the topic explores how the agency’s wishy-washy stance on regulating cable is now coming back to haunt it, as exemplified by Comcast (s cmcsa) challenging its ability to regulate net neutrality in light of the way the FCC had classified the cable service years back. Comcast argues that the FCC can regulate transport providers but not those providing services on top of the transport. As Crawford notes, the FCC can cave to the ISPs or it can reclassify all broadband service under a different jurisdiction that would ultimately put the ISPs in a far more regulated environment — and make their dumb pipe status a regulatory fact.

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Richard Bennett

I wouldn’t describe Crawford as a privacy advocate; she’s a noted net neutrality advocate, one of the primary advocates at the “all packets are equal” extreme. And a law professor with a very limited understanding of the Internet. She’s a nice person, very charming, but not very original on policy matters.

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