That sentiment reflects nicely my activities this week, which include three articles decrying efforts by regulators to oversee key aspects of the Internet economy. Of course their intentions—at least publicly—are always good. But even with the right idea, the unintended negative consequences always overwhelm the benefits by a wide margin.
Governments are just too slow to respond to the pace of change of innovations in information technology. Nothing will fix that. So better just to leave well enough alone and intercede only when genuine consumer harm is occurring. And provable.
The articles cover the spectrum from state (California), federal (FCC) and international (ITU) regulators and a wide range of truly bad ideas, from the desire of California’s Public Utilities Commission to “protect” consumers of VoIP services, to the FCC’s latest effort to elbow its way into regulating broadband Internet access at the middle milel, to a proposal from European telcos to have the U.N. implement a tariff system on Internet traffic originating from the U.S.
Here they are:
- “Government Control of the Net is Always a Bad Idea” (CNET) - http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57446383-38/government-control-of-net-is-always-a-bad-idea/?tag=mncol;cnetRiver
- “The FCC Noses Under the Broadband Internet Tent” (Forbes) - http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2012/06/06/the-fcc-noses-under-the-broadband-internet-tent/
- “U.N. Could Tax U.S.-based Websites, Leaked Docs Show” (CNET) - http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57449375-83/u.n-could-tax-u.s.-based-web-sites-leaked-docs-show/?tag=mncol;topStories
That third one, by the way, was written with CNET’s Chief Political Correspondent Declan McCullagh. It represents a genuine scoop, based on leaked documents posted by my Tech Liberation Front colleagues Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado on WCITLeaks.org!