James K. Glassman is a visiting fellow at AEI, where he researches issues related to Internet freedom, Internet governance, and cybersecurity. Glassman previously served as under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, during which time he led America’s public diplomacy outreach and inaugurated the use of new Internet technology in these efforts, an approach he christened “public diplomacy 2.0.” He was also chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Before his government service, Glassman was a senior fellow at AEI, where he specialized in economics and technology and founded The American, AEI’s magazine, which he led as editor-in-chief until his departure from AEI in 2007. In addition to his government service, Glassman was a former president of The Atlantic, publisher of The New Republic, executive vice president of US News & World Report, and editor-in-chief and co-owner of Roll Call.
Ajit Pai, the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced on April 26 a plan to undo the work of previous chairman Tom Wheeler’s FCC and bring back light-touch regulation to the internet. All well and good. But also insufficient.
If a Democrat is elected president in 2020, then the Pai rollback of Wheeler’s net-neutrality regulations would probably be rolled back by a new FCC chaired by, say, Mignon Clyburn. And the game of ping-pong will continue.
What America needs is clear, consistent, and sustainable internet policy. That can only come through legislation. We need a diligent rewriting of the 21-year-old act that guides telecom and internet policy. At the time of the law’s passage, there were just 13 million internet users in the United States. Today, there are 287 million.
Adam Smith laid down the guiding principle of regulatory policy 241 years ago. He wrote in “The Wealth of Nations”: “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet Inc. (C-L) and Mayra Arevich Marin (C-R), president of state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA, shake hands after signing documents in Havana, Cuba, December 12, 2016. REUTERS
Don’t get too excited about Google’s announcement this week that it has reached a deal bringing faster internet access to Cuba.
In the words of a Google press release, the agreement, signed in Havana on Monday by the company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, allows Cuba’s state telecom monopoly Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) “to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high-bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level. This in turn means Cubans who already have access to the Internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service.”
Singapore, a country that is so proud of its technology culture that it has branded the term “smart nation,” has unplugged some of its government offices from the internet and is working on a plan to unplug the entire public sector by next year. According to a Reuters report, the idea is that this will prevent cyberattacks.
I’ve been told by many who attended our event “The Disrupters: AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan on building the broadband network of the future” on May 5 that it was the best in the series so far. On the face of it, that seems odd. My interview with Donovan related almost exclusively to matters of network technology, human resources, and management in general. Policy made only a brief appearance.
Donovan is not a policy guy. We knew that when he asked him to speak, but we thought the event would be interesting anyway, and I guess we were right.