Thirty Profiles

Dave Burstein of DSL Prime has posted profiles of 30 FCC candidates to his web site, including one transition team member:

Susan Crawford, now teaching at Michigan, also has enormous respect from her peers and would bring international perspective from her role at ICANN setting world Internet policy

The selection of Crawford to join Kevin Werbach on the FCC transition team has already gotten some of my colleagues on the deregulatory side pretty excited, as she has the image of being a fierce advocate of a highly-regulated Internet. And indeed, she has written some strong stuff in favor of the “stupid network” construct that demands all packets be treated as equals inside the network. The critics are missing something that’s very important, however: both Werbach and Crawford are “Internet people” rather than “telecom people” and that’s a very important thing. While we may not like Crawford’s willingness to embrace a neutral routing mandate in the past, the more interesting question is how she comes down on a couple of issues that trump neutral routing, network management and multi-service routing.

We all know by now that the network management exception is more powerful than Powell’s “Four Freedoms” where the rubber meets the road, but we lack any clear guidance to ISPs as to how their management practices will be evaluated. Clarification of the rules is as much a benefit to carriers as it is to consumers. The one way to ensure that we all lose is to keep lumbering along in the murk of uncertain authority and secret rules. Internet people are going to ask the right questions to their candidates, and anybody who can satisfy both Werbach and Crawford will have to be a good choice. Check Werbach’s web site for his papers. Unfotunately, the most interesting of them is not yet in print, “The Centripetal Network: How the Internet Holds Itself Together, and the Forces Tearing it Apart”, UC Davis Law Review, forthcoming 2008. Perhaps he’ll post a draft.

The question of multi-service routing is also very important. Crawford has written and testified to the effect that the Internet is the first global, digital, multi-service network, which is substantially correct. The Internet is not fully multi-service today, however, and can’t be unless it exposes multiple service levels at the end points for applications to use easily. The generic public Internet has a single transport service which has to meet the needs of diverse applications today, which is not really an achievable goal in the peer-to-peer world.

A network that provides each class of application an appropriate transport is built-in to the architecture of IP and can be provided at the end points without compromising a correct interpretation of “non-discriminatory” behavior. That’s the challenge for regulators as well as for engineers as we move forward. More on that later, but suffice it to say that it’s lot better to have Crawford vetting FCC candidates than Tim Wu, Larry Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, or Yochai Benkler. And BTW, she’s a Comcast customer.

One of the names Burstein mentions is Cisco’s Bob Pepper. I’d very much like to see Pepper take a seat on the FCC, as he’s an amazingly bright and knowledgeable guy. I had the pleasure of joining him at a couple of events in Europe recently (written up on this blog and elsewhere) and came away deeply impressed with his acumen and ability to summarize technical issues in a cogent manner. Pepper has FCC background, which is a big plus.

So take heart, free marketers and Internet boosters, things are moving along quite nicely.

Here’s some bloggy goodness on the transition team in general.

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5 Responses to Thirty Profiles

  1. Brett Glass says:

    While Susan Crawford is a former board member of ICANN, she nonetheless doesn’t “get” the Internet. (ICANN, famously, likewise does not “get” the Internet, as has been demonstrated by some of its policies.)

    During her presentation at the Supernova conference (where you were also a speaker), Susan said that the Internet is a “utility,” “like water, electricity, [and] sewage systems.”

    This statement shows that she does not understand what the Internet is: a loose federation of independent entities that connect their networks together. It isn’t a single entity. No one provider can guarantee the quality of service from end to end once the bits venture outside his network, and each is free to manage his network as he sees fit. Centralized, utility-like regulation of the Net — besides spelling the end of independent providers and ensuring a duopoly — would destroy its very essence, and Susan seems bound and determined to do just that. Under this regime, we could say goodbye to small, independent and rural providers such as myself, without whom many citizens would be off the Net. In short, her agenda would harm Internet penetration and deployment, putting us farther behind other countries in these metrics. We need, on the FCC and on Obama’s team, people who really understand the Internet — not ones who will destroy it.

  2. Crawford “gets” the Internet as well as any law professor I’ve met other than Chris Yoo, but she has a ways to go, I’ll grant you. I’ve seen evidence that she’s committed to learning more, which I take as a good sign. The transition isn’t going to last that long in any case, of course.

  3. Brett Glass says:

    You are right: Chris Yoo (who was on the same panel in the House Judiciary Committee hearing, and pointed out that her claims of dupopoly were simply false) does “get” the Internet much better than Crawford.

    In any event, all ISPs and broadband consumers should be concerned about the damage that could be done during the transition via unwise appointments.

    What’s more, just as when we had one party rule in DC before (though it was the other party), we have a situation where the Senate could well be a rubber stamp which will not carefully vet appointees. So, we cannot count on the Senate to reject appointments that will harm the Internet. We need an FCC that “gets it.”

  4. Either Chris or Bob Pepper of Cisco would make an excellent FCC commissioner, but I agree with Dave Farber that the agency needs a real engineer. The law professors have their utility, but it is supposed to be a technical agency. We don’t appoint engineers to serve as Attorney General, so I don’t see why we should appoint lawyers to be the nation’s top technologists.

  5. Brett Glass says:

    It would be interesting indeed if Bob Pepper were to return to the FCC as a Commissioner. He certainly understands the agency — warts and all.

    It is a shame that being a Commissioner at what is supposed to be “expert agency” is such a political position. It shouldn’t be. (And it causes the agency to prioritize the wrong issues — such as the infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction,” which was no more risque’ than many things on prime time TV.) But because the Commissioners are appointed by the President, are confirmed by the Senate, and make decisions that affect large corporate donors, it has been politicized. Engineers working at the FCC “speak only when spoken to,” and too often are called in after the fact to justify decisions which are made politically rather than to help craft decisions which are best for the public at large. I’d like to see the agency more isolated from shifts in the political winds — and more able to retain good technical people.

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