Telcos: Laws governing our industry OK. They just need to favor telcos.

Summary:So, there was a lot of important non-C3 Expo stuff that happened while I was in New York at C3 Expo wrestling with the limited connectivity (and it was wired, not WiFi.... go figure) to file something that was even remotely interesting (as you may have seen from my coverage, I decided that audio recordings of my show floor "walkarounds" were about the only way to extract anything useful out of the event.

So, there was a lot of important non-C3 Expo stuff that happened while I was in New York at C3 Expo wrestling with the limited connectivity (and it was wired, not WiFi.... go figure) to file something that was even remotely interesting (as you may have seen from my coverage, I decided that audio recordings of my show floor "walkarounds" were about the only way to extract anything useful out of the event. Yes, EMC's acquisition of RSA is big news that I haven't fully digested yet.  As a security/storage company, EMC/RSA is now more aligned against Symantec/Veritas than ever (oh, and there was really bad news for Symantec.... it's apparently $1B in the hole with Uncle SamOuch!).  Then there was the recovery of the Veteran's Administration computer that had the personal information of 26.5 million peple (including a lot of people still on active duty) on it's hard drive.  According to reports, the database wasn't accessed.  Sorry, I'm not buying it until the goriest of details are released on just exactly how that conclusion was reached.  If those details ever actually surface, I'm sure the blogosphere will have a field day with it. 

A pretty big deal was made from the news that Microsoft's Office 2007 is delayed.  It's not nearly the big news that people are making it out to be (how many people do you know that won't be able to get their work done as a result?). Inside baseball always makes a good back up on slow news days.  Microsoft is better off taking its time getting the product right and it won't make too much of difference to the company's bottom line.  Long-term, as the rest of the industry moves to a subscription model and as Office competitors close the functionality gap (closing what little criticism remains) causing system manufacturers to preload free alternatives (to Office) the, Microsoft's hand will probably be forced to fall in-line with the rest of the industry's practice. The company already makes a boat load of money on support contracts (especially with its biggest customers) and offers subscription models.

But the setback that was dealt to net neutrality in the Senate is what most captured my interest.  Actually, it wasn't the decision as much as it was the FUD spewing (in my opinion) from paid telecom mouthpiece Scott Cleland who has been invading my inbox as of late. Normally, I don't waste any time deleting email from someone I've determined to be full of nothing but FUD.  But Cleland is like the Rush Limbaugh of Net Non-neutrality that I can't help but read what he sends me just to see how over the top it is.  The scary thing is that it's guys like him that affect lawmaking with stuff that's just pure imagination.  In today's email, Cleland wrote:

Net Neutrality is Regressive, Not Progressive Policy...Net neutrality is modern-day “Internet Luddism” - opposition to technological change.

  • Neutrality-Luddites are the Internet’s version of the 19th century Luddites, the British workers who rioted and destroyed labor-saving technology they feared would diminish employment.
  • Just like the original unsuccessful Luddites, neutrality-Luddites are driven by fear of technology change, competition and progress, because it threatens their status quo advantages.
  • Neutrality-Luddites seek government protection to insulate them from the technological change that enables more broadband competition and broadband convergence into ecommerce.
  • Net neutrality is “converge-aphobia” – an irrational fear of convergence and competition.
Sound familiar? It does to me.  Replace the word "Luddites" with "telcos" and suddenly, the shoe fits perfectly.  Or maybe I'm wrong and Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are most definitely driven by fear of technology change (man, I needed a good laugh today).  The third point about Neutrality Luddies seeking government protection to insulate them from broadband competition is quite precious.  Competition? What competition.  Any time there's any threat of someone else interfering with the status quo's control of the last mile (aka: competition), who is that gets their legal hackles up.  Lest we forget that it was Verizon back in 2004 that sought government protection in the form of a law that would prevent Philidelphia from rolling out city-wide Wi-Fi.

Or how about the way Bellsouth reacted when it found out New Orleans wanted to install  its own municipal Wi-Fi network to help stimulate the rebuilding of the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Bellsouth cited a law preventing the city from installing such a service -- but the job eventually went to Earthlink and now, the Senate want to clear the way for munipalities to install  Wi-Fi networks that do an end-run around the wired infrastructures that are currently in place.  In ZDNet's story regarding that news, Chris Putala, EarthLink's executive vice president for public policy is quoted as telling the Senate that a duopoly between cable providers, such as Comcast, and DSL providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, "does not provide sufficiet choice to drive innovation and preserve consumer freedom to use the services and applications of their choosing."

My point isn't that the cities are right or that the telcos are wrong in these an other cases.  It's that the telcos don't seem to have problem pushing for new laws or citing existing ones when those laws serve their businesses well.  But the minute somene else comes along and suggests a law that telco executives find offensive, the telco industry has a miraculous change of heart about laws governing the business they're in. 

Cleland's email goes on to spew more FUD than I'm willing to give him a forum for.  If you want to see just how much telco Kool-Aid this guy has injested, you can check out his blog.

Disclosure: In the spirit of media transparency, I want to disclose that in addition to my day job at ZDNet, I'm also a co-organizer of Mashup Camp and Mashup University. Google and Microsoft, both of which are mentioned in this story, are  sponsors of both upcoming events. For more information on my involvement with these events, see the special disclosure page that I've prepared and published here on ZDNet.

Topics: Telcos

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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