Hank Hulquist and I Have Intelligent Discussion, Agree On A Lot, Have Reasonable Disagreement On PolApril 18, 2010
As reported by Hank Hulquist over on the AT&T Public Policy Blog it turns out that, when we blow away the rhetoric (and we in the blogosphere love our rhetoric), we actually agree on a fair amount and that our disagreement is in the more rational place where one would expect disagreement. (You can see post and links here, along with our discussion in the comments.)
For example, we both agree on the actual history. Once there was just telecom transport. Then we had the computer proceedings, which allowed for the creation of unregulated Title I ISPs using regulated Title II transport. Then came cable modem, which combined the 2, leading to the Cable Modem Declaratory ruling in 2002, then the Wireline Framework Ruling in 2005, which allowed telcos to offer DSL as a combined service rather than separating out the transport and offering broadband access via a separate facility.
Where we disagree is what would happen if we went back to the pre-2005 rules and applied them across all platforms. I think that we would see lots of competing ISPs offering resale, a factor which would prevent larger ISPs such as Comcast or AT&T from trying to block content. This worked in the dial-up days. Hank thinks that the presence of lots of ISPs in the dial up days was a function of playing games with intercarrier compensation, and that therefore we would have a lot fewer choices than I am predicting.
As always when trying to predict the future, I will concede a certain ambiguity in the data. In countries that have rules similar to the pre-2005 wireline DSL rules, we do see a number of providers in the market (UK and France are oft cited examples). This is why we at PK supported the conclusions in the Berkman Report and thought those recommendations should be included in the broadband plan. OTOH, as Dave Burstein argued from the audience when I was at that FCC hearing, take rates for competing DSL providers in France are very low. (I will also link to this this paper by Kraft and Salies on the subject.)
Which brings us to the critical point. There is plenty of room in public policy for honest debate and disagreement. Holding opposing views does not make someone either a paid shill or an unrepetant ideologue, although Lord knows we don’t lack for either catagory (or the occassionaly psychotic troll) in the debate. The data are often messy, and reasonable minds may draw different conclusions or make different predictions. What we should demand is what teachers have demanded since the first grade. Show your work, be willing to admit when what you have done crosses out of the “ambiguous” catagory and into the “flat out wrong” catagory, and don’t through a tantrum if folks disagree.
About Harold Feld
Harold Feld is Public Knowledge’s Senior Vice President and author of “The Case for the Digital Platform Act,” (Public Knowledge & Roosevelt Institute 2019) a guide on what government can do to preserve competition and empower individual users in the huge swath of our economy now referred to as “Big Tech.” Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler described this book as, “[...] a tour de force of the issues raised by the digital economy and internet capitalism.” For more than 20 years, Feld has practiced law at the intersection of technology, broadband, and media policy in both the private sector and in the public interest community. Feld has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a law degree from Boston University, and clerked for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Feld also writes “Tales of the Sausage Factory,” a progressive blog on media and telecom policy. In 2007, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin praised him and his blog for “[doing] a lot of great work helping people understand how FCC decisions affect people and communities on the ground.”