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Can self-regulation alone of the Internet work?

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I attended an event at the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC  on Monday which took on the question, “what should be the government’s role in Internet governance?”   The consensus was that self-regulation alone cannot work.  Customer input and response must be taken into account and considered as key drivers.   Further, the government has a role as overseer and can step in and respond in instances of market failure and egregious bad behavior.  What would be the basis of that authority is up in the air still.  In sum, the debate over open internet and net neutrality does not have to drag out into infinity.

Rather, all of the stakeholders, minus the lawyers, should get together to hash out the details.

A VP at Comcast, David Cohen, addressed the audiences at the start of the event and introduced the launch of a new body, a new broadband technical advisory group called BITAG (“Bee-Tag”).  The group would  be dominated by engineers focused on ways to manage the network that makes up the Internet, and would exclude lawyers, lobbyists and organized activists, all of whom Cohen said do not help much when consensus is needed.

I’ve always said the net neutrality debate was a contract issues, but Cohen disagrees and said it is an engineering and network management issue that can only be resolved when all of the technical and engineering types get together and work out a solution to it.

During the event, I asked the panel to address how the investment community responds to government regulation;  and whether technology and innovation would preclude the necessity for government regulation.

They didn’t give me an answer.  Rather, they simply reiterated what I already knew that investors are driven by certainty.

Cohen and the other panelists  Erik Garr, a partner at Diamond management and technology consultant, who was one of the architects of the FCC’s National Broadband plan  and General Counsel of the Aspen International Digital Economic Accords (IDEA) project, Gary Epstein, also did not respond to the technology question at all.  So Cohen may have been right.

At bottom, Net Neutrality and open internet can be on its way to resolution so people the FCC can focus on other more important issues that have real and immediate tangible impact on the community of innovators, digital entrepreneurs and others working in the broadband space.

At top, the panelists’ lack of response to my question means  that Cohen is probably right; the technology, engineers, innovators may have been ignored for far too long.  It was an interesting standing-room only event.  I’m glad I made my way down to attend in person. You can catch the audio replay Here!

I also wrote about the experience for Politic365.com.  Check out my story at HERE!

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