Appearing like a ghost of Internet past, Reed Hundt showed up at Freedom2Connect to defend his record and attack the incumbent's assumptions.
His point was that the Internet is a public good, that fast, ubiquitous access to it is an economic essential, and it would be incredibly cheap to deliver that when compared to the current Administration's priorities.
Hundt estimated a subsidy of "only" $20-25 billion would deliver a universal fiber-to-the-home connection to every American home, something he called essential to meeting the competitive threat of China. (Hundt will publish a book called "In China's Shadow" this fall.)
Whatever China becomes in terms of an information society in the next 20 years has an enormous impact on the US in ways we have not begun to imagine. It is China’s version of the Inernet that will be as large or larger than the American and Western verison in a generation.
How would we like it if China had a non-neutral network. How would we enjoy it if China Telecom were to decide on a highly discriminatory approach was the right paradigm and American firms were not to get equal access, in China or other places under its influence
In all times past there would have been an absolute congruence between our fight for free trade and our battle for open networks in China. We could have counted on that.
If we decide to adopt in the next several years, in pursuit of the extra dollar, a closed network model, we have no basis to stand on if we assert a preference for open networks in other countries and open access by our sellers on those highways to consumers and users in other countries.
Hundt called the "four principles" on network neutrality promulgated by successor Michael Powell "a palsied, weak, shadow compared to rules" in guaranteeing a faster, more open Internet. Upstream access is vital, he said. Open protocols are essential. Peering should be free. And competition should be continuous.
"This public space to which the public thoroughfare must take us is where democracy will be defined," he thundered as he ended, unaware perhaps of just how emphatic he had become.
It was a great show. But was it anything more than a show? Compared to current policies being offered Hundt is now a radical. But is it possible he is also right?