American technology companies today find themselves in a conundrum Oscar Wilde identified: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” The tech companies—both networks and the platform services that ride on them—have run the table in Washington as multiple government agencies and Congress repeatedly walked away from regulatory oversight. The result has been the digital companies’ discovery of Wilde’s second tragedy.
What should be the broadband agenda for infrastructure legislation? Here are some key principles.
Several of the draft bills related to privacy in the 116th Congress present concrete signs of an emerging shift in the underlying model for privacy regulation in the current discussion, from one based on consumer choice to another focused on business behavior in handling data. This paper focuses on this key element of the taxonomy—how proposals reflect this shifting paradigm and how the change affects other aspects of privacy protection.
With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, at least one chamber of Congress could be poised to meaningfully update consumer and competition protection rules for the internet age. In doing so, they would be well advised to follow Republican Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts in the industrial age. Today, the internet barons are making the rules for the new economy. Roosevelt’s admonition is simple: There must be a “still higher power” that makes rules for the protection of the public interest.
Who would Americans trust to best understand the broadband-related interests of the residents of a city: its mayor, or the head of the Federal Communications Commission? About twice as many Americans have a positive view of their local government than they do the federal government. Americans would be right in trusting mayors more than federal officials.
In my new book, “From Gutenberg to Google,” I examine the two great network revolutions of the past—the printing press in the 15th century, as well as the combination of the railroad and telegraph in the 19th century—to put in historical perspective the confusion and uncertainty brought about by the internet today. Though current technology may be causing massive societal changes faster than ever before, the book discusses how these past upheavals shed light on how to deal with the issues of the information age.
The economic reality of varied broadband deployments is that communities with the fastest speeds are most likely to benefit from competition among providers, which further pushes prices down. Thus, we soon will have a divide in which certain dense and high-income communities will have multiple choices for affordable gigabit services, while less dense, lower-income communities may still be stuck with a DSL offering that is 100 times slower but similarly priced.
The emergence of fifth generation (5G) mobile networks is elevating the need for stakeholders to assess infrastructure and cost inclusivity in order to address this digital divide. Communities of color, who often find themselves on the wrong side of the divide, are poised to benefit from 5G technologies that enable internet of things (IoT) applications in health care, education, transportation, and energy. However, this outcome is contingent on stakeholder buy-in, advocacy, and programming of intentional diversity initiatives.