FreePress’ Tim Wu: All aboard Amtrak Broadband!

April 19, 2010

In his Philly.com op-ed, self-appointed armchair communications historian, and FreePress Chairman Tim Wu, advises that the FCC can find all the regulatory answers it needs for the future of the Internet by going back a century in time.

  • I kid you not, Chairman Wu’s actual policy advice is: “we need to go back to 1910, when Congress passed a law declaring that the telegraph, telephone, and radio were to be treated just like railroads, as ‘common carriers.‘”

If FreePress’ Chairman Wu did not have the ear of some at the FCC, his advice would be laughable.

  • Does Chairman Wu actually think Congress knew more about the best communications policy when we still used telegraph Morse code and phones had to be connected by an operator by manually connecting wires, than Congress knew about communications policy in 1996? and the FCC knew in 2005?
    • Apparently Mr. Wu seeks to regulate 21st century Internet Service Providers like 19th century railroads.

For an aspiring communications historian, Chairman Wu apparently has missed a couple of big and embarrassing ironies in his nostalgic “back to the future” regulatory advice to the FCC.

  • First, if the railroad common carrier regulatory model is the best for the National Broadband Plan getting broadband to all Americans fastest, why after over 140 years, does Amtrak serve only:
    • 46 states,
    • 500 destinations,
    • <10% of Americans, and
    • <1% of the route miles that competitive broadband communications providers serve?
  • Second, if the railroad common carrier regulatory model is best for broadband, why does Amtrak’s broadband service not abide by the FCC’s net neutrality principles like all private broadband providers do?
    • From Amtrak’s website on how Amtrak broadband is not neutral:
      • Are there any restrictions? AmtrakConnect is a shared Internet connection that works best when browsing basic Internet content or reading your email. We ask that you refrain from playing streaming video or downloading large files. Amtrak may restrict access to some websites or restrict individual customers from using high levels of bandwidth.” [bold added for emphasis]
    • I guess Mr. Wu believes its ok for broadband to not be neutral, if the broadband service is subsidized, controlled by, and/or dependent on, Government…

Chairman Wu: Alllllll aboarrrrrd Amtrak broadband!

 

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