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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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September 10, 2008 10:35 AM

Rob Atkinson Puts Broadband Policy Wars On Display

Attending yesterday's ITIF event entitled "It's Time to End the Broadband Policy Wars" was fascinating not so much because it necessarily ended any war but instead for how it basically put the war up on stage for all to see.

Before getting into a review of what everyone said, let me first say that while Rob was able to maintain an air of civility and even good humor, I'm not sure we were able to move past the characterizations he mentioned at the beginning of pro-telco people sounding evil and pro-net neutrality and municipal broadband sounding communistic, or at least each side still perceives the other in roughly these same terms after the event as they did before.

Yet at the same time I think two things were accomplished that were incredibly helpful. First off, Rob got the two sides to share a stage and not have the dialog devolve into name-calling. And secondly, by doing so he gave the audience the opportunity to compare and consider arguments from both sides.

What I came out of this event with was the sense that if we could all just keep getting together in a room to discuss these issues we might be able to start making some progress forward. If nothing else it helps everyone realize that we're all human beings trying to tackle complex problems rather than continuing to consider individuals' perspectives as nothing more than stand-ins for larger ideologies.

The challenge we face is that so much of these "debates" happen online with each side standing up on its soapbox and shouting its position at the other side and out to the world without really listening to the other side or performing any self-reflection about their own positions.

But I'm increasingly hopeful that there's movement afoot to change the tenor of these debates, moving away from personal attacks and ideologically driven policies and towards respectful, fact-based discussions that can ultimately guide us to the truth in terms of what should be done to improve our country's broadband atmosphere.

Now to get started into the specifics of what happened I want to first begin by recounting Rob's introductory remarks in which he called out both sides of contentious issues, which he believes often falls into partisan right/left rhetoric, imploring them to realize where their positions could be improved to better reflect reality rather than ideology. I'm just including the highlights here. If you want to read the three-page paper where Rob goes into greater detail about each item, you can download a PDF here.

International Broadband Standing
Right - Stop denying the US lags behind other countries and faces a big challenge to overcome that.
Left - Stop claiming all the blame lies in our "bankrupt broadband policies."

Net Neutrality
Right - Acknowledge there's a role for government intervention in cases where broadband providers' business interests don't align with the public good.
Left - Stop claiming net neutrality legislation will somehow increase broadband takeup or investment.

Role of Competition
Right - Stop pretending inter-modal markets are already fully competitive and don't require government oversight.
Left - Stop holding up intra-modal competition as the Holy Grail.

Overall Broadband Policy
Right - It's time to acknowledge broadband market is different from other consumer goods.
Left - It's time to end government fundamentalism and acknowledge that there's a role for private companies to play.

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