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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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April 22, 2008 10:58 AM

Commerce hearing: Wrap-up

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sens. John Kerry and Byron Dorgan did a nice job of pushing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin for concrete answers. As expected, Martin did a good job knocking the edges off of the questions.

Martin did say that he believes his commission has the authority to enforce net neutrality. He would not commit to whether Congress should adopt net neutrality legislation.

Congress should. If not the Internet stands to be regulated by network providers like Comcast, which has shown that it will interfere with some content and users.

Panelist Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor, talked about the lack of broadband choice for consumers and how that lack of choice leads to government involvement. Lessig said:

"When you don't have choice the only option the consumer has to go too is the government."

He is right. The network providers have such a stranglehold on the market that there is no other recourse. They might lessen governmental regulations by genuinely adopting an open network. Even so, there would still be a need for some minimal net neutrality law from the FCC and or Congress. But it would probably be a much more acceptable law than what will happen if broadband can only be deployed by a few large cable and telecommunication companies.

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