FAA device rules illustrate the folly of a regulated internet

The New York Times‘ Bits blog has a great piece on the FAA’s inconvenient, outdated and unhelpful rules regarding electronic devices on planes:

Dealing with the F.A.A. on this topic is like arguing with a stubborn teenager. The agency has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane’s avionics, but it still perpetuates such claims, spreading irrational fear among millions of fliers.

The dumb FAA rules illustrate why we shouldn’t let the government regulate the internet: Government regulations are nearly always outdated and too cautious.

The FAA rules are dumb and continue to be dumb because FAA rule makers have neither the expertise nor the incentive to accurately weigh costs and benefits.

Its employees can’t keep up with the latest communications and aviation technology like employees at device manufacturers, telecomm companies and airlines must. That means rules are doomed to be ill-informed.

Also, incentives for the FAA strongly favor caution. Fully researching the issue or taking risks by allowing some airlines to test in-flight device usage offers little benefit to FAA staff. Yet allowing in-flight devices and seeing passenger safety threatened as a result could threaten funding, power, and end several promising bureaucratic careers. Simply put, the FAA device rules illustrates how regulations are made based on what’s best for regulators, not what’s best for industries or consumers.

This is true of nearly all regulation. Regulators cannot be (and have little incentive to be) as well-informed as the people working in regulated industries. So it follows that the fastest-changing industries are most hamstrung by overly cautious and outdated regulation.

For this reason, whether it’s cybersecurity or net neutrality, it’s easy to see why well-intentioned, seemingly helpful attempts to use government to regulate the internet are doomed to be perpetually ill-informed, outdated and tending toward caution to the detriment of progress and innovation.

Photo by epSos.de.

New Net Neutrality legislation: Another unnecessary attempt to regulate the internet

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has introduced one more unnecessary, vaguely written piece of Net Neutrality legislation.

The bill prohibits internet service providers from allowing selected websites to circumvent their data caps. The only available recent example of an ISP actually showing data favoritism is Comcast letting its Xbox video streaming app circumvent its data cap. But Comcast isn’t currently enforcing its data cap at all. So this, once again, is an example of internet-regulating legislation that is A. bound to have unintended consequences, as all legislation does, and B. aimed at fixing a problem that doesn’t actually currently exist. Sounds like a lose-lose.


The bill also mandates that ISP data caps “reasonably limit network congestion without unnecessarily restricting Internet use.” Words like reasonably and necessarily are rife for cronyism and legislative abuse. The legislation also allows the FCC to dictate how internet service providers price their tiered data plans. As Ryan Radia so eloquently put it in this Ars Technica interview, this kind of legislation amounts to ”a price control based on discredited economic thinking.”

The legislation comes soon after a New America Foundation white paper revealed that ISPs use data caps to make money.

From Ars Technica:

The reason for this counterintuitive business model is that in the noncompetitive US marketplace, it is highly profitable.

Noncompetitive US marketplace. Exactly. The more we allow ISPs to compete via regulation (aka cronyism), the less they compete in the marketplace, meaning a crappier product for a higher price.

Data favoritism isn’t an actual problem that’s costing anyone any money. The problem is that ISPs charge way too much money for way too little service. The costs in transferring data have come way down, yet the prices for consumers haven’t.

The answer, of course, is a more competitive marketplace, which is the only thing that will motivate ISPs to figure out ways to make money by providing more data for fewer dollars.

Further reading:

Senator introduces bill to regulate data caps
Net Neutrality, Data-Cap Legislation Lands in Senate

Image via shyb

Dan Savage only supports the Constitutional rights that he likes

From Crazy Old Nick Gillespie in the American Conservative:

Many of the people who would go to the mat for the First Amendment, no matter what monsters take shelter behind its shield, seem all too eager to throw out the Second Amendment, apparently because it doesn’t mean anything personally to them.

Sounds a lot like Dan Savage in his 11/18/2012 Savage Love episode.


Marco Rubio strikes a blow to UN World Conference on International Telecommunications Union with S.Con.Res. 50

Today the House votes on Marco Rubio’s strike back against the World Conference on International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and its stated purpose to find new ways to further regulate the internet.

His bill, S.Con.Res. 50, aims to “preserve and advance the multistakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived.”

It’s basically a bill to prevent further bills. While the results of this UN conference will not be binding to the US in any way, what the UN does will sometimes influence US legislation.

It’s good that Rubio wants to take steps to avoid any UN influence on internet regulation. Especially since some of the leaked meeting agenda items would be disastrous if implemented. Especially threatening are the proposals to give government monopoly power over domain name registration and proposals to tax data sent across international borders.

Not surprisingly, Google, Verizon and ICANN (the private entity now registering domain names) have lobbied for the bill, as they have the most to lose (besides consumers, of course) from such internet regulation.

Photo by KP Tripathi

International Telecommunications Union: Three reasons we must keep the internet open and free

On the day of the UN’s closed-door meeting to discuss regulating the internet, Google has posted a blog and created a website aimed at getting people to sign a pledge asking for a free and open internet.

Besides the general idea that there exists absolutely no need for the UN to regulate the internet, here are three specific reasons you should care about this meeting.

How can we make the internet less awesome? Let’s regulate it!

1. Regulating the internet threatens speech

Right now, one proposal from the meeting is to let governments take over distributing domain names. From Google: “Currently, 42 countries filter and censor content. In just the last two years, governments have enacted 19 new laws threatening online free expression.” Letting governments decide who gets to build a website seems like a really bad plan if you like free speech.

The best part of Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist’s CNN piece:

History is rife with examples of governments taking actions to “protect” their citizens from harm by controlling access to information and inhibiting freedom of expression and other freedoms outlined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. Taxing international online commerce discourages it

Another proposal on the table is to tax companies for sending data across borders. I. Just. Can’t. Even. If you want to see millions lifted out of crushing poverty and the global recession finally ended inhibiting international data exchange is absolutely anathema to the innovation required to do so.

3. We don’t want to encourage them

But even apart from the absolute stupidity of the proposals on the table right now that we know about, the overall situation is that we have absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose by bringing the transparency of China’s internet police and the efficiency of the Unites States Post Office to the uniquely free, efficient and wonderful place that is the internet.

Photo by Voka – Kamer van Koophandel Limburg