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Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends

Friday, July 21, 2006

BobF at 2:18 PM [url]:

A Folie à Deux—The FCC and Telecommunications!

I just posted two essays “FCC vs Us” and It's Our Infrastructure as well as my other essays. The more you understand this madness the angrier you’ll get.

For those who want to skip all the background and reasoning and go right to the conclusion . . .

I’ve been trying to understand the Regulatorium and the policy issues but the more I write the stranger it seems. Even though Regulatorium’s defining premises are false we are still debating the policies within the Regulatorium’s framing rather than asking why it exists at all.

The FCC and the industry it regulates have created a world of their own. They each reinforce each others insanity – in psychology this is called a folie à deux or a shared madness. They are like twins that have created their own language – it gives them an aura of mystery even if the words have no meaning outside their closed world. The Regulatorium has taken this madness and created an entire universe. Its acolytes spend years learning the arcane languages and rituals and get paid handsomely for their efforts. Those who question some of the precepts of the Regulatorium are beholden to their vows and have a legal obligation to honor a system that doesn’t just serve their clients’ needs but gives their clients their reason to exist.

The Regulatorium has achieved the status of “venerable institution”. Its well-dressed adherents, arcane language and comforting rituals are a sharp contrast to the scruffy mêlée that is today’s Internet. While people talk blithely about creative destruction as a good thing we rightly fear disruption. Not all systems (or marketplaces) are the same. It is important to understand what I call The Opportunity Dynamic. Open systems like the Internet and personal computers are only part of the dynamic – in order to gain the value of the disruption we must be able to contain the risk. This is true of digital systems and the Web in particular – it established a boundary between your local environment and the rest of the world thus making it safe to explore the world. We’ve compromised this boundary in order to take more advantage of the opportunities and continue to co-evolve our understanding of connectivity.

As we’ve seen the Regulatorium sees only the risks and none of the benefits of the Internet. It has managed to keep the infrastructure locked up tightly within its world. Its concession is to give us a little broadband but it has an explicit and intentional goal of preventing us from creating our own solutions—just like it has done again and again and again for the last century. It shows a depraved indifference to the needs of society.

It is indeed madness – and we’d be crazy to let it continue.

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