President-elect Barack Obama has appointed two reportedly “network neutrality” advocates to his transition team, The Industry Standard reports. The report says that the appointees, Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and Kevin Werbach, a Wharton professor, a former FCC staffer, and organizer of the annual tech conference Supernova, are avid gamers. While that would make them sensitive to the notions of bandwidth caps being put forward by the telephone and cable companies, they might be equally aware of how a neutral network, where no applications could be optimized or improved, would slow down bandwidth-chugging interactive games. Of the two, Crawford is the more doctrinaire, quoting the flawed ITU broadband penetration reports and stating she regards Internet access as a utility on a par with electricity and water (despite the fact that the telecom industry has shown more that competing infrastructure can flourish side by side). Werbach is much more of a technologist, and his writing shows a willingness to depart from the usual activist talking points and consider the disruptive potential that technology hasÃ¢â?¬â??including its remarkable ability to render policy issues, like network neutrality, that seem so critical today, absolutely meaningless tomorrow. His practical, empirical understanding of the industry may balance Crawford’s more regulatory bent.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.