September 2012

Vint Cerf on U.N. regulation of the internet

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Vinton Cerf, one of the “fathers of the internet,” discusses what he sees as one of the greatest threats to the internet—the encroachment of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) into the internet realm. ITU member states will meet this December in Dubai to update international telecommunications regulations and consider proposals to regulate the net. Cerf argues that, as the face of telecommunications is changing, the ITU is attempting to justify its continued existence by expanding its mandate to include the internet. Cerf says that the business model of the internet is fundamentally different from that of traditional telecommunications, and as a result, the ITU’s regulatory model will not work. In place of top-down ITU regulation, Cerf suggests that open multi-stakeholder processes and bilateral agreements may be a better solutions to the challenges of governance on the internet.

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Ryan Radia on the constitutionality of net neutrality

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Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, discusses the amicus brief he helped author in the case of Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission now before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Radia analyzes the case, which will determine the fate of the FCC’s net neutrality rule. While Verizon is arguing that the FCC does not have the authority to issue suce rules, Radia says that the constitutional implications of the net neutrality rule are more important. He explains that the amicus brief outlines both First and Fifth Amendment arguments against the rule, stating that net neutrality impinges on the speech of Internet service providers and constitutes an illegal taking of their private property.

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Christopher Steiner on algorithms

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Christopher Steiner, author of Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule the World, discusses his new book. Steiner originally set about studying the prevalence of algorithms in Wall Street stock trading but soon found they were everywhere. Stock traders were the first to use algorithms as a substitute for human judgment to make trades automatically, allowing for much faster trading. But now algorithms are used to diagnose illnesses, interpret legal documents, analyze foreign policy, and write newspaper articles. Algorithms have even been used to look at how people form sentences to determine that person’s personality and mental state so that customer service agents can deal with upset customers better. Steiner discusses the benefits–and risks–of algorithmic automation and how it will change the world.

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Adam Thierer on nationalizing Facebook

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Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, discuses recent calls for nationalizing Facebook or at least regulating it as a public utility. Thierer argues that Facebook is not a public good in any formal economic sense, and nationalizing the social network would be a big step in the wrong direction. He argues that nationalizing the network is neither the only nor the most effective means of solving privacy concerns that surround Facebook and other social networks. Nor is Facebook is a monopoly, he says, arguing that customers have many other choices. Thierer also points out that regulation is not without its problems including the potential that a regulator will be captured by the regulated network thus making monopoly a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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