Is The Commerce Department Really Ready To Regulate The Internet?

from the rethinking-things dept

Larry Strickling, the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (a division of the Department of Commerce), gave a speech last week where he outlined, in broad strokes, a vision for “Internet Policy 3.0”, which suggested a much more hands-on approach to regulating the internet. This got some attention online, with some claiming that the US was “rescinding” its “leave internet alone policy.” That may be a stretch from what was actually said, but a lot of people are wondering what this really means. What Strickling was really talking about was rethinking the general policy towards some of the bigger internet challenges.

In his mind, “Internet Policy 3.0” would be about ensuring users of the Internet are able to trust others that they deal with. This is certainly an issue to be dealt with. And he then lists out five areas where such concerns should take precedence: Privacy, Child Protection and Freedom of Expression, Cybersecurity, Copyright and Internet Governance. Obviously, I’m not convinced that things like copyright really need much more government intervention (there’s been plenty, thank you very much), but some of the other ones are interesting issues where you could see a government role.

The problem, of course, is what happens when you actually open these up to regulatory interference. Suddenly, they become political footballs. We’ve seen this with copyright, where it’s become a case of regulatory capture — laws are pushed to protect entrenched interests, rather than to support what copyright is supposed to do (promoting the progress).

Rather than adopting some of the more hysterical responses to this speech, the CDT put out a well-thought-out response, that suggests that Strickling hopefully misspoke, or really meant to say something slightly different, along the lines of admitting that there are real policy issues impacting the internet, and the government has always needed to deal with those challenges. But, in doing so, it may need to rethink how it approaches some of those issues.

Indeed, in reading the speech, it doesn’t sound like he’s really pushing for a change towards suddenly massively regulating the internet. Instead, I read it as him realizing that these issues — which, for the most part, the government is already active in regulating — now present some different challenges due to the nature of what’s happening on line. Given that, the US needs to think carefully through its policies and how they impact the internet. At least, I hope that’s what he meant.

While there are certainly problems online, opening them up directly to regulatory control risks turning them into tools of special interests, rather than letting things develop in the most efficient manner. There are risks and dangers online, but if there needs to be any policy towards online activities, it should use a very light touch.

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Comments on “Is The Commerce Department Really Ready To Regulate The Internet?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“but if there needs to be any policy towards online activities, it should use a very light touch.”

But it will end up with the Internet turning into what everything outside the Intenret has turned into, absolute nonsense due to government regulations. The MSM never talks about how IP harms innovation and they never discuss the fact that there is zero evidence suggesting it supports innovation and almost all the evidence suggests the opposite. They never talk about the absurd length of copyright or the bogus lawsuits that result from IP laws and how much money is wasted on litigation instead of innovation. No, the MSM is corrupt and it’s the broken laws in place, giving them monopoly power, that enables this. They want to turn the Internet into this exact same scam.

glass half full says:

Just setting the stage

Prelude to the ACTA.

Big business and big politics have been drooling over this Golden Goose for some time, waiting for it to become more plump and juicey. But what they have overlooked is the fact that it only lays a golden egg periodically and you will not find any more eggs when you cut it open. Then upon realizing their error they will act all shocked and attempt to blame someone else for their failure, as always.

Beta says:

the camel's nose

In his mind, “Internet Policy 3.0” would be about ensuring users of the Internet are able to trust others that they deal with.

This makes my blood run cold. It is so very close to “you won’t be allowed on the internet unless I decide you’re trustworthy”. And it hits all the familiar notes: protect the children, stop fraud, make us safe. This really looks like an attempt to introduce these ideas into the semi-conscious public mind with a minimum of fuss.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: vigilance

What’s more is that all this technology will never stop a single terrorist. It will only invade our privacy.

It’s not the governments job to employ useless technology that invades our privacy and does absolutely nothing to make us any safer.

It’s their job to hire investigators that do the work of investigating issues and looking at data that they obtained through measures of due process.

But of course this requires someone to do work and it’s always easier to implement useless technology that invades our privacy and does nothing to protect us in place of actual employees that are willing to work at investigating issues.

A much more effective, and less invasive, method that actually works of catching criminals is for cops to pretend to be potential victims on the internet and, without entrapping anyone of course, see if any predators try to approach them.

But no, it’s much cheaper to employ ineffective technology that invades our privacy and does nothing to protect us.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

This is interesting .....

First a couple Quotes from the articles …

“Currently the global Internet is dependent on an address book whose contents are changed through a contract that the US government has granted to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN), based in Los Angeles.”

“There’s little question that our existing regulatory structures are poorly equipped to deal with these issues. They are too slow, they are too backward looking, and they are too political to be effective.”

“the solutions that emerge through our consultations may be recommendations for legislation or regulation”

“If content providers do not trust that their content will be protected, they will threaten to stop putting it online.”

Unintended Consequences and Thinking Outside The Box …

Recently I watched a demo of a meta-internet app. This app was set up to use any of these methods p2p, ftp, posts to web sites, email, twitter, irc , etc to LINK UP to a distributed “meta-dns”. It used one standard DNS call to find the “meta-dns” then used that instead.

It was very cool after it found the meta-dns it replaced standard DNS lookups, created a web above the web, onion routing was an option, and encrypted all the communications on this meta network. There were 200 plus machines on this demo “meta-web”, with websites, ftp, IRC, etc all hidden from the outside world. The app is only about 8 meg and allows you to choose any applications communication to route through it.

What I see internet regulation, surveillance, three strikes, and legislation doing is making us less secure as apps like this “meta-dns” come online and parts of the internet go gray. It will create a place to hide, a place of anonymity, where all the things they are trying to stop and prevent will no longer shrink and cower in the darkness, but grow and evolve into something much worse.

known coward says:

No government likes

unregulated anything, it goes against the nature of a goverment. And the only thing that abhors a vacuum more than nature is goverment.

It is a credit to the founding fathers that they wanted to build an edifice that would keep the goverment out of our lives. It is an amazing fact that it has taken us 200 some odd years to get around their protections.

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