This has also spawned some fairly good discussion between PK and DigiSociety.
It's nice to have some intelligent exchange on this in Policyland. The biggest drain on my spirit these days is the feeling of non-stop talking to a wall on so many things. My father remarked it is like an old I Love Lucy where Lucy is given the answers to the questions for a quiz show, but is asked them in a different order, so her answers don't match the questions.
To give an example, yesterday I was debating about internet gatekeepers and I said: "we have possible gate keepers at many levels and for a variety of reasons. Apple is plainly a potential gatekeeper. They are picking and choosing who gets to play on their platform and, as a result, how they access the internet. This is very similar to the gatekeeper control MS used to have on the desk top. But are they really a gate keeper yet? Google and Yahoo are potential gate keepers, even without meaning to. BP is able to manipulate how people find news in a very effective way by buying up all the sponsored links relating to its oil spill. We should be concerned about this, but it is a different problem than Apple -- because Google and Yahoo are gatekeepers without even intending to be gate keepers. And then there is AT&T, which is now a major gate keeper for wireless access. Not only did they not intend to be a gatekeeper, but I'm sure that the last thing they wanted was to adopt a price plan their customers hate. So you can become a gate keeper even when you don't want to.
This is why we need government to set reasonable rules of the road, to keep any gate keeper from emerging. But we need the right agencies with the right rules and right expertise. Apple is a classic problem for antitrust. That's the Department of Justice. Google and Yahoo are problems of advertising and consumer practice. Antitrust does not deal with this issue, but the news can still be manipulated in ways that hurt us all -- and possibly without our knowledge. That looks more like a job for the Federal Trade Commission, which has experience with advertising and privacy and other relevant issues. The question of AT&T is how do you make sure that wireless providers invest enough in their networks, that's a classic problem for the FCC, which has dealt with network capacity issues and ensuring build out for over 75 years."
A bunch of times, I repeated the "Google and Yahoo are also potential gate keepers, but that issue is better dealt with at the FTC because it is not the same issue as managing networks." when we get to the audience question part, a woman comes up to the mic and says "Do you think Google ought to be regulated under the same network neutrality rules you want for broadband networks? And why not?"
This is obviously a person who is here to Ask This Question. It is obvious that she did not even listen to what I said, because this is the question she is supposed to ask. And no, she didn't walk in late. And everything in her bearing and manner of asking was clear that this was what she was supposed to do, because this is their talking point.
For the record, my response was: "When I have a problem with my sink, I call a plumber. When my AC breaks down, I call an electrician. I do not say 'because I use a plumber for my sink, I must use a plumber for my AC, because it is obvious that all household repairs must be consistent.' I get someone who can actually fix the AC, because I want things to work. The FCC looks after the pipes. When I have a problem with Google, whether it's advertising or competition, I go to the FTC. Because that's who actually knows how to fix the problem."
Yeah, I know how we play here in DC. But there are days when one is grateful for actual discussion with folks who disagree.