Monday, September 21, 2009

The Rhetoric of Neutrality

The website of the FCC has not done much to embrace the practices of social computing or even the kinds of information design strategies that have made other government websites more aesthetically appealing. But something has changed dramatically at the FCC since the Bush administration: the commission's stand on network neutrality. As a press release entitled FCC CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI OUTLINES ACTIONS TO PRESERVE THE FREE AND OPEN INTERNET indicates, the federal government may be getting serious about finally formalizing the idea of digital rights beyond simple first amendment anti-censorship initiatives. In the remarks of the Chairman before the Brookings Institution, he makes the case for the economic and cultural value of access and seems to imply that regulation may be needed, given the lack of competition in the telecommunications industry and their desire to maintain their current market advantage in the face of services like Skype that could radically reduce costs to consumers. Of course, by the time the newspapers had picked up the story industry lobbyists were already on the offensive, so it is certain to be a long battle ahead.

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