Rob Atkinson reflects on his presentation at State of the Net.
Authoritarians Win, Internet Loses in Dubai
The worst case scenario came to pass at the WCIT summit in Dubai: The ITU’s authoritarian majority has adopted a host of Internet regulations that are so extreme the democratic nations of the developed world have already declared their refusal to sign. The world will be without a consensus telecom treaty for the first time in more than a century.
Sparks Will Fly at Spectrum Incentive Auctions Hearing
On December 12, 2012, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing with all five FCC commissioners to examine the upcoming spectrum incentive auction. Sparks will fly over the licensed vs. unlicensed apportionment and over bidder eligibility, but these issues would not be nearly so contentious if civilians had access to some of the spectrum currently held by the military.
The Gathering Storm: WCIT and the Global Regulation of the Internet
At the upcoming International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, to be held from December 3-14, delegates will consider proposals to amend the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs,) binding rules that govern telecommunications network practices around the world. While ITRs are currently limited to the telephone network, several WCIT proposals would expand their scope, making them apply broadly across the entire Internet ecosystem. The ITRs were last amended in 1988, before the Internet was a public system and before many of the most important telecommunications systems and networks we use today were even invented. ITRs have not historically applied to the Internet, which has developed its own international governance institutions, so it’s peculiar that some nations want to extend them so radically at this stage.
In the new world of mobile networks and the Internet, the commercial sector is the network operator and each nation makes its own regulations governing networks. Shifting control of regulatory policy to a global body of regulators pressed by nations with parochial and often mercantilist Interests is not an improvement.
If any change needs to be made at all in the ITRs with respect to the Internet, it should be limited to creating a firewall between the authority of ITU and the operation of the Internet. The Internet’s organic governance system has proved to be quite effective, in no small part due to its close proximity to the Internet’s technical standards and business practices. Technologies that enable rapid rates of change need the ability to adapt to changing conditions quickly; an international treaty organization that convenes once every fifteen years does not fit the bill. The ITU is facing obsolescence as we begin to retire the telephone networks that have been its sole focus since the phase-out of the telegraph, but this existential crisis does not justify a wholesale restructuring of Internet governance.
Comparing the 2012 Presidential Candidates’ Technology and Innovation Policies
Despite the obligatory acknowledgment of innovation’s central role in U.S. economic growth, the 2012 campaign has not yet seen a serious conversation emerge regarding the policies sorely needed to revitalize U.S. innovation-based economic competitiveness. Moreover, rather than adopt an “all of the above” approach to innovation policy that includes corporate tax and regulatory reform as well as increased federal investment in research and development (R&D), digital infrastructure, and skills, the candidates stress policies from “each column,” with Governor Romney focusing more on the former and President Obama more on the latter. This is unfortunate. For, as we write in the book Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage, U.S. policymakers need to recognize that the United States is engaged in a fierce race for innovation-based economic growth. To win this race, the United States will need to adopt a new, bipartisan Washington Innovation Consensus that places science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the center of economic policy-making and recognizes that both parties bring good ideas to the table in this regard.
This report highlights the candidates' technology and innovation policies with the aim of amplifying the national dialogue around bolstering innovation-based economic growth. The report begins with an overview of each candidate’s general philosophy on technology, innovation, and trade policy, and then compares the candidates’ specific policy positions across 10 policy areas:
- Innovation and R&D
- Energy Innovation
- Education and Skills
- Broadband and Telecommunications
- Internet/Digital Economy
- Life Sciences and Biotechnology
The report is based on information gathered directly from the campaigns’ websites and policy documents or from media reports of statements made by the candidates. In some cases where a candidate has not articulated a specific position, the candidate’s record while in office or the position of the candidate’s party (as reflected in the Democratic or Republican party platforms) is used as a proxy.
ITIF is a non-partisan research and educational institution—a think tank—focused on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues, and does not endorse either candidate. Rather, this report seeks to provide a factual, impartial comparison of the candidates’ technology and innovation policies.
Winning the Race 2012 Memos
As the 2012 presidential campaign moves in the final stage, ITIF is presenting general principles and specific recommendation ideas across several policy areas we believe the next President and Congress should adopt to restore U.S. global competiveness and prosperity.
As chronicled in Innovation Economic: The Race for Global Advantage, the United States is losing its once formidable edge as an innovator. Many other nations are putting in place better tax, talent, technology and trade policies, and reaping the rewards in terms of faster growth, more jobs, and faster income growth. It’s not too late for the United States to regain its lead but it will need to act boldly and with resolve.
Week by week until the November election, the Winning the Race series will put forward creative yet pragmatic ideas in policies affecting taxes, trade, education, broadband, the digital economy, clean energy, science and technology and other areas. Taken as a whole, the series represents a new Innovation Consensus to replace the outdated Washington Consensus.
Memo One (September 3, 2012): Boosting Innovation, Competitiveness, and Productivity
Memo Two (September 10, 2012): Trade and Globalization
Memo Three (September 17, 2012): Corporate Tax
Memo Four (September 24, 2012): Digital Communication Networks
Memo Five (October 1, 2012): Traded Sector Industries
Memo Six (October 9, 2012): Digital Economy
Memo Seven (October 15, 2012): STEM Skills
Memo Eight (October 22, 2012): Clean Energy
Memo Nine (October 29, 2012): Science and Technology
Memo Ten (November 5, 2012): Overcoming the Barriers
Complete List of Policy Recommendations: Top Policy Recommendations for the Obama Administration to Help the United States Win the Race for Global Advantage