February 24, 2008
FCC Hearing on the Future of the Internet

For anyone here in the Boston area, I wanted to put it on your radar to attend the Boston FCC hearing on the future of the Internet, which will be taking place tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the Ames Courtroom at Austin Hall in Harvard Law School. The hearing will not include an open microphone for the public at large to voice their opinion as part of the event, but activist group "SaveTheInternet" will be videotaping the comments of those in attendance and submitting them to the FCC.

A wide variety of speakers will be present as part of the event, which will revolve around two 1.5-hour panels. The first will feature Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benlker, author of The Wealth of Networks, as well as a variety of other law professors, a general counsel for Free Press, Massachusetts State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, and Comcast EVP David L. Cohen.

The second panel will focus on technology and include the Chief Technology Officer of BitTorrent, a network architect, SVP of Networks & Systems Architecture for Sony Electronics, and three MIT speakers.

More information is available here and here.

The hearing will focus particularly on "broadband network management practices," according to the official FCC description. Directions to the event are available here.

SaveTheInternet has been particularly active in trying to spread the word about the event for folks in the Boston area. They say in their release, "In recent months cable and Internet companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have repeatedly been caught blocking, filtering, and spying on consumers' Internet activities. The FCC is responding to the hundreds of thousands of people who have expressed their outrage over the anti-competitive practices by holding a hearing in Boston, Massachusetts."

The discussion has sparked some discussion around the Program in Comparative Media Studies, particularly surrounding the issue of net neutrality. We have had some healthy debate regarding the importance of protecting freedom of speech online, the role of Internet service providers, and the danger for governmental involvement in curtailing continued private-sector innovation, with some well-articulated points being made on both sides of the issue.

This is a complex matter, though, and one that will greatly impact the future of many of the activities discussed by the Convergence Culture Consortium. If any of our readers are particularly passionate on this issue, or else if you'd like to know more about the diversity of viewpoints and the arguments being made on all sides of this issue, this will be an event worth attending.

For more on some of these issues, see my post last week about UK ISPs and piracy monitoring, as well as my series Access vs. Censorship.

Unfortunately, I have a variety of obligations that will keep me from Harvard on Monday, including teaching a class in the afternoon, but I'd love to hear from anyone who goes. Please drop me a line at samford@mit.edu and share your thoughts from the event with me.