Behind The Hoopla of The National Broadband Plan

The promulgation of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan caused near-orgasmic pleasure among policy wonks in D.C. and elsewhere – if only for the reason that it showed that the FCC appears to care about bringing our country’s true communicative potential into the 21st century.
But now that everybody’s had a chance to look under the hood, so to speak, of the 376-page proposal, and I got to sniff the air in D.C. myself, it’s clear that the honeymoon – if there really was one – is over.
Free Press’ Media Reform Daily and the Benton Foundation have been very good at chronicling the critical analyses of the plan and its actual functionality (it’s a shame the MRD is not archived online, because it has circulated some of the best stuff).
But I really realized I wasn’t just pissing into the wind on this issue when half of my dissertation committee, Christian Sandvig and Dan Schiller, published their own take to the Huffington Post. Sandvig and Schiller are veritable geniuses in the field of communications research (and I say that not just because they tolerate me).
Christian Sandvig is an award-winning, ambitious scholar who specializes in actually measuring the effects of broadband network penetration in the real world, and works especially hard in the areas most affected by our nation’s digital divide.
Dan Schiller, the son of Herbert Schiller ((1919-2000); himself considered a foundational thinker in the critical study of communications), is an internationally-renowned scholar in the history and political of economy of the telecommunications industry. Two of his books, Digital Capitalism (2000) and How to Think About Information (2006), are required reading for anyone who really wants to understand where the power of our 21st century communications infrastructure lies.
The money-quote from their HuffPo piece, for me, is this: “The worldview at the FCC is so skewed that if a rule would displease the companies that the FCC is supposed to be regulating, apparently the staffers declare it to be off the table.”
With that in mind, I submit it’s the only article you really need to read in order to understand the fundamental, potentially lethal weaknesses of the National Broadband Plan. It would indeed appear that the unabashed enthusiasm was wholly premature.