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I've posted a long article on this morning on the Global Network Initiative. A non-profit group aimed at improving human rights though the agency of information technology companies, GNI has never really gotten off the ground.

Since its formal launch in 2008, following two years of negotiations among tech companies, human rights groups and academics, not a single company has agreed to join beyond the original members--Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

This despite considerable pressure from supporters of GNI, including Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Human Rights. Indeed, in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere and the seminal role played by social media and other IT, a full-court press has been launched against Facebook and Twitter in particular for failing to sign up. ...continue reading "Why no one will join the Global Network Initiative"

In the rush of ink that flowed yesterday over AT&T's announced merger with T-Mobile USA, I posted a long piece on CNET calling for calm, reasoned analysis of the deal by regulators, chiefly the Department of Justice and the FCC.

Since the details of the deal have yet to be fleshed out, it's hard to say much about the specifics of how customers will be affected in the short or long term.  My CNET colleague Maggie Reardon, however, does an excellent job laying out both the technical and likely regulatory issues in a piece posted today from the CTIA conference.

My point was simpler.  Within hours of the deal's announcement, and without any relevant facts, public interest groups including the Media Access Project, Public Knowledge and Free Press had already issued press releases condemning it--Public Knowledge, in fact, called the merger "unthinkable."

That, I'm sure, was just rhetorical excess, but it does underscore a modern tendency among some advocates to react emotionally rather than rationally to any kind of asset combination.  They assume any change in the competitive landscape that reduces competition in the literal sense (fewer competitors) is by definition an antitrust violation, and conflate that with what is in fact much more complex antitrust analysis that regulators undertake.

What will be significant in this deal, I suspect, is who takes the lead.  The Department of Justice has repeatedly indicated it believes there is robust competition in mobile services, and that an accelerated push to 4G (the point of this merger) could improve competition overall by creating a viable alternative to wireline broadband.

(See the DoJ's letter to the FCC as part of the National Broadband Plan--which also, by the way, found robust competition in wireless, though the FCC has since back-tracked in an unconvincing manner.)

The FCC, on the other hand, has gone off the rails recently in its antitrust analyses, as evidenced by the painful, drawn-out review of Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal and the crazy quilt of largely-unrelated conditions imposed on the deal in a nearly 300-page Order.

Worse, there's still that nagging Paragraph 78 of the Open Internet order, where a majority of Commissioners explicitly rejected the idea that traditional antitrust measures of harm to consumers would guide their application of the net neutrality rules.   (They offered no alternative criteria, even worse.)

Left to the FCC, the AT&T/T-Mobile deal will take forever to complete, and will be left shouldering regulatory pet projects for years.  Left to the Department of Justice, something more reasonable and timely might happen.

But that's just more thinking about the "unthinkable."  Pardon my logic.


Larry appeared this week on "The Communicators," C-SPAN's weekly program exploring the digital future.

Larry spoke with veteran D.C. reporter Peter Slen on a wide range of topics at the 2011 State of the Net Conference, where the interview was taped. Subjects included net neutrality, the Law of Disruption, and the poor fit of emerging technologies and specific regulation.

2011 has already been filled with important developments in the technology world, and I continue to be a regular source for journalists as well as publishing frequent editorials and analyses of my own.

I’ve just posted several new items to the Media Page of my website, including articles I’ve written for CNET and for Forbes, as well as video from this week's appearance on PBS's "Ideas in Action."

Some highlights:

.  Coverage of policy events at this year's Consumer Electronics Show for both CNET and the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital focused on coming battles in the new Congress over the FCC's net neutrality rules, and previewed the rest of the likely tech agenda.

. Video from Larry's appearance at the Congressional Internet Caucus's "State of the Net 2011."

. A controversial essay for Slate Magazine, "Doing Nothing to Save the Internet".

. Extensive coverage of Larry's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on the FCC's Open Internet order.

.Stories for both CNET and Forbes analyzing the FCC's failure to complete a crucial inventory of spectrum licenses ahead of requirements to find 300-500 Mhz. of new spectrum for mobile broadband in the next five to ten years.

"Ideas in Action with Jim Glassman: The Next Digital Decade," Public Broadcasting System, March 8, 2011. Larry speaks with "Ideas in Action" host Jim Glassman and law professor Geoffrey Manne about the next digital decade.'

Larry appeared along with Lewis & Clark Law Professor Geoffrey Manne on the PBS program "Ideas in Action" this week to discuss The Next Digital Decade.