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Alfred Kahn on network neutrality
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2006 09:53:52 -0500

I, obviously agree djf

Begin forwarded message:

From: Patrick Ross <Pross () pff org>
Date: November 1, 2006 9:05:02 AM EST
To: dave () farber net
Subject: Alfred Kahn on network neutrality


Thought you would like to know that the father of deregulation, Alfred Kahn, has chimed in on net neutrality. PFF published an essay by him yesterday that began as a comment he left on our blog. Anyone who has flown or purchased a good transported on a truck has to be thankful to him for deregulating the airline and trucking industries under the Carter administration. With this piece, he was responding to a blog I had written about how Democrat Bill Kennard had been criticized for urging caution when dealing with network neutrality legislation. Dr. Kahn’s piece, “A Democratic Voice of Caution on Network Neutrality,” can be found here (http://www.pff.org/issues- pubs/ps/2006/ps2.24voiceofcautiononnetneutrality.html ) and I’ll paste in his opening:

The advocates of network neutrality have become distressingly, stridently apocalyptic, rallying all good liberals against (the following is a fair composite quote):

"those with the deepest pockets...corporations, special-interest groups, and major advertisers, who decide what you get to see and how much it costs, and especially the billion-dollar telephone and cable companies that now dominate the business of providing broadband connections to the public--who want to control what you read, see or hear online... Major corporate sites would be able to pay the new fees, while little-guy sites could be shut out."

Now wait just a minute.

I consider myself a good liberal Democrat. I played a leading role under President Carter in the deregulation of the airlines (as Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board) and trucking (as Advisor to the President on Inflation), against the almost unanimous opposition of the major airlines and trucking companies and--let's be frank about it--their strongest unions. Among our strongest allies were Senator Ted Kennedy, Stephen (now Supreme Court Justice) Breyer, and such organizations as Common Cause, Public Citizen, the Consumer Federation of America and Southwest Airlines.

This is not the place to argue about the consequences of those deregulations. What is unarguable is that airline deregulation has saved travelers many billions of dollars annually and made air travel affordable for people with modest means, just as we intended.

I have played an active role also as Chairman of the New York State Public Service Commission and consistently, both before and after, opposing the efforts of AT&T to induce the FCC and Congress to protect its historical monopoly. I have also over the last half century been a consistent public advocate of strong antitrust policy.

Our premise in all these efforts, in opposition to reactionaries and special interests, on the one side, and to the indifference or scorn of radicals, on the other, was that wherever it is feasible, competition is a far better protector of the interest of both consumers and content providers (think radio, television, motion pictures and, now, the Internet) than government ownership or regulation. In telecommunications, cable and telephone companies compete increasingly with one another, and while the two largest wireless companies, Cingular and Verizon, are affiliated with AT&T and Verizon, respectively, some 97 percent of the population has at least a third one competing for their business as well; and Sprint and Intel have recently announced their plan to spend 3 billion dollars on mobile Wi-Max facilities nationwide. Scores of municipalities led by Philadelphia and San Francisco, are building their own Wi-Fi networks. And on the horizon are the electric companies, already beginning to use their ubiquitous power lines to offer broadband--to providers of content, on the one side, and consumers, on the other.

By far the most promising intensification of that competition is the tens of billions of dollars that the phone companies themselves are spending converting copper to fiber, which will enable them to offer video programming pervasively, in direct competition with the cable companies. Can anyone seriously believe that competition would be forthcoming if those incumbents were still subject to public utility- type regulation? Or prevented from surcharging the heaviest content suppliers--the ones demanding the speediest possible access to subscribers that those telco investments will make possible?


Patrick Ross

Senior Fellow and VP-Communications & External Affairs

The Progress & Freedom Foundation

1444 Eye St. NW Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20005

202-969-2945 (direct) | 202-680-2445 (mobile)

www.pff.org | ipcentral.info

For more see www.patrick-ross.com

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