Bon Mots from the Professional Misanthropes at Free Press?

by Mike Wendy on October 15, 2010

We’re so used to hearing disparaging statements about network providers from the Free Press that I thought I’d pass along couple of nice comments they recently made in their FCC open Internet filing this week.

I will note that, no, they don’t come out and say – “Hey, network providers, you’re doing an awesome job for America and its citizens, providing leading-edge innovation and technology so that Americans of all stripes, virtually anywhere, at anytime of the day or night, can use the Internet to enrich themselves socially, spiritually and materially.” I guess that would be too much.  But, be that as it may, I found four quotes in their 27-page filing, which seem about as close to “nice” or “positive” as one might see from the professional misanthropes at FP.

Here goes.

Quote 1. In decrying any form of paid prioritization by ISPs, the group lets slip:

Control over prioritization would effectively empower ISPs to choose winners and losers among Internet content, applications, and services, destroying what is today a competitive and innovative market built around unrestricted consumer choice. The result would be the end of the open Internet that has been an engine for unanticipated and unparalleled economic growth… (emphasis added)

I have to explain this one because its positive nature is not entirely obvious.  Though key words like “core and edge innovators worked together to create the greatness that is the Internet” are clearly absent, the statement above strongly implies that.  FP knows, or at least realizes that the reader knows, that the Internet has many components which work together to provide the experience we all call “the Internet.”  It’s not just edge providers, or content providers, or device makers, but also the companies that deliver the Internet into our homes and businesses – the network providers.  In admitting that the Internet is presently “open,” as well as a huge tool for economic prosperity – they’ve patted all involved on the back.  Even the “evil” network providers, whom they usually deride. Thanks, guys.  How sweet of ya’.

Quote 2. In pushing for rules to “protect consumers” from the ostensible perniciousness of specialized services, FP whispers:

…[T]he services should not further retard current trends of steady, albeit slow, growth in typical Internet access service speeds. (emphasis added)

In numerous proceedings over this past couple of years, FP has bemoaned, condemned, belittled, criticized or outright castigated Internet access speeds provided by ISPs here in America.  At least this one quote pulls back on some of that vitriol, albeit with Twitter-length brevity.

Quote 3. In asking the Commission to apply the same set of wireline, Net Neutrality regulations to wireless networks, the group remarkably exclaims:

…[There] is only one public Internet — rather than a series of balkanized networks — and that preserving that interconnectedness is an important public policy goal. Commerce and speech currently flow seamlessly from one technological platform to another, and consumers perceive and expect that they will enjoy the same protections regardless of whether they access the Internet via a wireless or wired connection.  If anything, the flexibility to access the Internet via both wired and wireless networks has increased since 2005…

Implicit in this statement is the fact that private parties and individuals, core and edge innovators, with little direct government involvement or regulation, brought this about. Working together to create our “one Internet,” the medium evolved through a complex and interdependent ecosystem of interests.  I read into this statement, “All are important,” as opposed to their usual cant, “Only the edge innovators matter.”  Further, the exclamation also belies the group’s Title II assertions (perhaps because they feel shame for the fiction?), which would sadly segregate the Internet into two decidedly different camps – that is, 1st-class citizenship for Internet content, applications, services and device makers; indentured servitude for network providers.  Maybe they’re coming clean on the clearly discriminatory efforts of the FCC to reclassify Internet access into two different services / parts of town?

Quote 4. In discussing pricing strategies to curb excessive data usage on wireless networks, FP begrudgingly admits:

Though Free Press has doubts about whether such pricing ultimately benefits consumers and the public interest, it is a neutral strategy that may mitigate congestion.

Earlier in their filing FP whines about what most every business in the WORLD does to make a profit – namely, engaging “in economic-driven discriminatory rent-seeking and exclusionary behavior.”  That said, I guess the quote above on pricing is about as close an endorsement of classical liberal economic theory as we could hope for from the socialist-leaning group.  Well, three cheers for trying, at least. Adam Smith – maybe we’ve got a convert here?

Perhaps all these bon mots represent a bright new beginning for the full-time cynics at the Free Press.  Who knows?  Though our “one Internet” certainly isn’t all about bunny rabbits and puppy dogs and mints artfully placed on our pillows at night, it’s certainly better than what the Free Press lets on.

But, let’s give praise where praise is due and congratulate the Free Press on its newfound “joie de vivre” – even the most morose need a little cheer every now and then.

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