September 16, 2013
Innovation is alive and well on the Internet, even though courts keep invalidating "net neutrality" regulations. Make that because courts keep invalidating those regulations. It's time to drive a stake through the idea of net neutrality. The Internet should be left free to be run by engineers, not set upon by government bureaucrats.
Net neutrality was once a hot political issue. "We can't have a situation in which the corporate duopoly dictates the future of the Internet," Sen. Barack Obama said in 2006, referring to cable and telephone companies, "and that's why I'm supporting what is called net neutrality." He made good on that promise as president, only to be thwarted by the courts, which have held that the Federal Communications Commission has no authority to dictate how the Internet operates. The Communications Act of 1996 forbids the agency from managing the Internet as a "common carrier," the regulatory approach the commission took toward telephones during the AT&T monopoly era.
The latest case drew a standing-room-only crowd in federal court in Washington last week to see whether the FCC will get away with its regulatory willfulness in trying to regulate the Internet after the appeals court already slapped it down. In 2008, the FCC determined that Comcast was wrong to slow down the music-stealing service BitTorrent in order to keep other Web traffic flowing. In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in Comcast's favor and held that the FCC didn't have the authority to second-guess how companies regulate networks. Later that year, the FCC issued new net-neutrality regulations supported only by Democratic commissioners-a rare party-line vote. It called these rules "prophylactic" because regulators had found only a handful of cases in which Internet service providers actually discriminated against content providers, as in the Comcast-BitTorrent dispute.
Verizon is now challenging the 2010 regulations, under which the FCC claimed broad oversight of the Internet-while at the same time acknowledging that not every data packet on the Internet can be treated the same way. The agency grandfathered in the nearly a dozen "nonneutral" technologies, protocols and business terms. Among them: blocking spam, giving priority to medical monitoring data, and Amazon's special deal to deliver Kindle e-books quickly.
The exceptions are so numerous as to make a mockery of the idea of net neutrality. But any further exceptions to net neutrality would have to be approved by bureaucrats. As Verizon argues, the regulations would freeze the Internet in place: "End users successfully accessed the Internet content, applications and services of their choice literally billions of times." The free market and technological innovations have kept the Internet open-by making sure it is not "neutral."
The unsung innovators are the engineers who set technical standards via groups like the Internet Engineering Task Force. They have adjusted how packets of data are routed as new needs arise. As the predomination of text gave way to time-sensitive voice and video, the new content received preferential treatment. An entire industry of content delivery network companies keeps the network functioning smoothly, and not neutrally.
If allowed to stand, the FCC's 2010 rules could scuttle promising new technologies. Driverless cars can become a reality only with quick access to data. Real-time traffic information needs more reliable delivery than, say, your latest photo on Facebook. Other innovations needing highly reliable Internet connections include new digital devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such as real-time mobile electrocardiograms and blood-glucose monitors that work through iPhones.
Political support for net neutrality has faded over the years, as more people understand how the self-regulating Internet functions. The alternative is the FCC claims to the power once held by the now-defunct Interstate Commerce Commission, which set prices and other terms for railways as common carriers, just as the FCC now wants to set prices and other terms for the Internet. The ICC is remembered for creating railway monopolies and suppressing innovation. No one wants such a dreary fate for the Internet. The best hope for the open Internet is that judges keep invalidating net neutrality regulations. The engineers who run the Web have proven that they need no interference from Washington. Wall Street Journal
Univision's networks President Cesar Conde is making a dramatic career crossover, leaving the Spanish-language media giant to accept a huge new role running international operations at rival NBCUniversal. On Friday, Conde was named NBCUniversal executive vice president in charge of international business. Conde, a polished 39-year-old business executive, got his start in politics. He was a former White House fellow working with Secretary of State Colin Powell during President George W. Bush's administration. Now, Conde will report to NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke. Conde spent 10 years at Univision, overseeing its networks business from the company's west Miami complex.
At NBCUniversal, he will focus "on business development, strategic priorities and special business projects across the NBCUniversal portfolio of assets," NBCUniversal said in a statement. Kevin MacLellan, who became chairman of the international operations for NBCUniversal earlier this week, will report to Conde. MacLellan, who is based in London, was named to replace Jeff Shell, who has moved back to Los Angeles to take over Universal Pictures in a dramatic studio shake-up. NBCUniversal carved out a new job for Conde.
"His experience leading multiple domestic and international businesses will be instrumental in maximizing all the opportunities to grow our portfolio," Burke said in a prepared statement. Conde, who was a holdover from the previous Univision management team, was based at Univision's Miami network headquarters. He received his business degree from Harvard University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Univision on Friday quickly named three top operational executives to assume some of Conde's duties, which cut out a layer of management. Alberto Ciurana, who has maintained a high profile at Univision since he joined the company last year as its top programming executive, now will report directly to Univision Chief Executive Randy Falco. The move gives Ciurana, Univision's president of programming and content, even more sway within the media company. Ciurana previously ran programming at Mexico's entertainment giant, Grupo Televisa, which has an ownership stake in Univision. Isaac Lee, president of Univision News, and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, president of Univision Sports, also now will report to Falco.
Lee is overseeing the development of the soon-to-be launched cable channel Fusion, a joint venture with ABC News. The channel is expected to launch at the end of October. In an email to Univision staff, Falco called the trio "three of the finest executives in the business." "We are hitting high marks in our performance across all divisions of the company," Falco said in the email. "With this new structure, we will be able to act with more speed and agility to seize the significant growth opportunities in front of us and continue our company-wide expansion efforts." Falco now has 13 executives directly reporting to him. Los Angeles Times
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