osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Parking 'til I can figure out PK blog problem

As reported by Hank Hulquist over on the AT&T Public Policy Blog, it turns out that, when we blow away the rhetoric (we in the blogosphere love our rhetoric), we actually agree on a fair amount and that our disagreement is in the more rational place where one would expect disagreement. (You can see post and links here, along with our discussion in the comments.)

For example, we both agree on the actual history. Once there was just telecom transport. Then we had the computer proceedings, which allowed for the creation of unregulated Title I ISPs using regulated Title II transport. Then came cable modem, which combined the 2, leading to the Cable Modem Declaratory ruling in 2002, then the Wireline Framework Ruling in 2005, which allowed telcos to offer DSL as a combined service rather than separating out the transport and offering broadband access via a separate facility.

Where we disagree is what would happen if we went back to the pre-2005 rules and applied them across all platforms. I think that we would see lots of competing ISPs offering resale, a factor which would prevent larger ISPs such as Comcast or AT&T from trying to block content. This worked in the dial-up days. Hank thinks that the presence of lots of ISPs in the dial up days was a function of playing games with intercarrier compensation, and that therefore we would have a lot fewer choices than I am predicting.

As always when trying to predict the future, I will concede a certain ambiguity in the data. In countries that have rules similar to the pre-2005 wireline DSL rules, we do see a number of providers in the market (UK and France are oft cited examples). This is why we at PK supported the conclusions in the Berkman Report and thought those recommendations should be included in the broadband plan. OTOH, as Dave Burstein argued from the audience when I was at that FCC hearing, take rates for competing DSL providers in France are very low. (I will also link to this this paper by Kraft and Salies on the subject.)

Which brings us to the critical point. There is plenty of room in public policy for honest debate and disagreement. Holding opposing views does not make someone either a paid shill or an unrepentant ideologue, although Lord knows we don't lack for either category (or the occasionally psychotic troll) in the debate. The data are often messy, and reasonable minds may draw different conclusions or make different predictions. What we should demand is what teachers have demanded since the first grade. Show your work, be willing to admit when what you have done crosses out of the "ambiguous" category and into the "flat out wrong" category, and don't through a tantrum if folks disagree.

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