In a packed Austin classroom for “The Uncertain Internet: Core Net Values for the [TBD] Administration”

Behind me someone hears Jenny Toomey introduced and mutters “did they say the Ford Foundation? She’s from the Ford Foundation? That’s a CIA front.” Sitting next to him is Orlando Bagwell, of the Ford Foundation. He assures his neighbor that Ford is not a CIA front.

[Warning– liveblogging on a discussion that is technically above my paygrade, incomplete and inaccurate reporting ahead!]

Jenny introduces a new video from the folks who brought us the Yes We Can video, lots of smart people saying how important a free and open Internet is.

Now our moderator Jonathan Zittrain (Professor, Harvard Law School, Berkman co-founder, henceforth JZ) meet our panel:
Susan Crawford, (Professor, University of Michigan Law School and “Internet enthusiast”) JZ: Susan, if you were tsar, what would you do? SC: Basic fiber for everyone! Our country could do what Singapore is doing. It should be a public/private partnership, but the most important thing is that control over it should have no relationship to what we do on it.

Alec Ross (Tech Policy Advisor to Obama and runs his own nonprofit called One Economy) JZ: Your first 10 minutes as tsar? AR: Reforming universal service, with a date certain to change it to something that subsidizes advances networks. It’s 7 billion dollars a year now, that could be subsidizing broadband instead of phone service. Chris Soghoian asks (at first anonymously, via the Question Tool) about using a Nevada address to avoid high Massachusetts cell phone taxes. JZ gets applause for asking Alec why we should trust Obama on tech after his FISA flip-flop. Alec fails to answer the question (IMHO).

Rich Miner (Mobile Platforms, Google; co-Founder of Android and “serial entrepreneur”) says he doesn’t know this open Internet of which we speak, as in the mobile space there’s no such thing. JZ interrupts to ask him to explain the 700 MhZ auction. Which he does, more eloquently than I can, here’s an article that looks like it explains. JZ: What’s in it for Google? RM: Weird as it sounds, Google bought us (Android) and has yet establish any business plan that I know of. When Google speaks open, they mean it.

Great question from the audience – what about the fact that the more open platform (Internet) is more used by the privileged and mobile platforms are more relied upon by the less wealthy, less privileged? Rich agrees this is important.

Susan Crawford says there is a titanic battle between the mindsets of openness and the closedness of the mobile world. She mentions Verizon and the IMS which is completely over my head (here’s something on it).

Terry Fisher asks a provocative question – if we did have choice, if we had 3-4 or more sources of broadband competing, would it be ok to drop this net neutrality thing?

Alec Ross says he cannot imagine that world, we need to regulate what is now, though we should still dream of that.

One problem with this panel is that no one disagrees with anyone. Rich Miner suggests Googling “white spaces” (JZ corrects “or use the search engine of your choice”). I think he hopes we’ll find this.

Eszter Hargittai‘s question about access being more about skill than physical access is voted up on the question tool, gets a good response from Alec Ross, who says it’s what his nonprofit has found also. He refers her to the research of John Horrigan, of Pew, who is conveniently sitting next to her; they wave at each other.

Susan Craword points out that we’re bad on outrage in the US, we’re not out protesting. So true. We’re fat and happy.

On that note, perhaps just my plunging blood sugar talking, but I’m beginning to wonder if this discussion is really changing anyone’s mind about anything. In any case, I have to slip out in the direction of dinner.

Internet & Tacos by droid

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1 Comment

  1. Eszter

    October 10, 2008 @ 4:59 pm


    I waved at John as a bit of a joke. The reason I was sitting next to him was because I know him, have followed Pew’s work since they started PIP and so went to chat with him before the session.:-)