title: Advice for GWB
by: Scott Bradner
Eight years was a long time before the Internet and is much longer now. Eight years is the length of time I've been writing this column. It is also the length of time that the Clinton/Gore administration has been in power (if that is a reasonable term in these days of political turmoil.) During this time the Internet has moved from 'never heard of it' to 'the cause of the NASDAC collapse.' The Internet has flourished in an environment of mostly benign regulatory neglect. There have been some exceptions, such as the Communications Decency Act, but on the whole the administration's regulators left the Internet alone. Considering what some people proposed, neglect was a good thing, but in a few cases maybe it was too much of a good thing. So herein is some unsolicited advice for the incoming administration.
Follow traditional instincts to minimize regulations effecting the Internet.
Remember, the Internet is not a phone company. Nor is it a cable TV company. Do not regulate it as either.
The Internet is a disruptive technology, let it disrupt -- innovation comes from this type of disruption. Do not try to "guide" the technology. (To use a Newt Gingrich concept.) For example, do not define Internet-based phone service, let the innovators do that.
Do not try to protect the incumbent service providers. That would be as forward thinking as protecting the horse dung recyclers against the auto a hundred years ago. Fight against any effort anywhere to outlaw Internet-based telephony.
Don't single out the Internet for special, positive or negative, tax treatment. For example, all cross-state line sales should be treated the same whether Internet, phone or letter initiated. But the rules need to be understandable and universal (at least for U.S. - based sellers.)
Empower the individual and remove the government from Internet content control. The inevitable result of government content regulation is politically correct pabulum. Remove the current federal requirement for filtering software in schools and libraries. Let local people decide on their own.
Al Gore did help invent the Internet. His legislation helped fund the research that got us to this point. But the job is not done. There is more to be invented. Federal funding for technology research should be increased and a mandate issued to fund more cutting-edge research, research which, by definition, may fail.
Regulations are needed in one area. The previous administration licked the boots of those who sell personal information. Individual Internet users must be given control over their own information with criminal penalties for companies and individuals that violate that control.
Now that the stock market seems to be over its irrational exuberance about all things Internet we have a chance to look at this collection of technologies in a calmer and more rational way. The 'Net will continue to have a profound impact on the economy and society. If you let it do so.
disclaimer: Harvard, whose new President may be harder to select than was GWB due to the chad-less process, has expressed no opinions on the above.