Originally published: June 27, 2011
Last updated: June 27, 2011 - 9:47pm
Federal Communications Commission member Robert McDowell was in Stockholm, Sweden to deliver a keynote on technology and democracy. Here's some excerpts:
Freedom is on the rise unlike any other time in world history. In the early 1970s, the world had fewer than 40 electoral democracies. Today, there are 116,19 with perhaps more on the way soon. That’s phenomenal growth. And the proliferation of communications technologies is not following the spread of liberty, it is pushing it. Communications technologies are now the tip of the spear in the fight for freedom across the globe.
As we look across the globe, it is state interference with the ’Net that has been undermining liberty, not private sector mischief. Government control of the Internet is antithetical to the entire notion and architecture of the Internet itself. By definition, the Internet is decentralized and defies authoritarian top-down control – be that technical control, political control or both. In fact, its very structure is helping to shape governments in its image.
Furthermore, countries that regulate the ’Net more tend to be less free. But we live in an exciting new era where attempts to maintain “walled information gardens” – be they state-sponsored or not – are doomed to fail. Explosive growth of telecom innovation is dissolving authoritarian regimes by strengthening the sovereignty of the individual. As Italian thinker Bruno Leoni wrote, “Individual liberty is antithetical to the power of the State.” A mobile Internet liberates individuals as never before. Not surprisingly, the purveyors of overwhelming state authority are threatened by this paradigm shift.
To propel freedom’s momentum, policy makers should remember that, since their inception, the Internet and mobile connectivity have migrated further away from government control. As the result of longstanding international consensus, the Internet itself has become the greatest deregulatory success story of all time. To continue to promote freedom and prosperity, regulators should continue to rely on the “bottom up” nongovernmental Internet governance bodies that have a perfect record of keeping the ’Net working and open. We must heed the advice of leaders like Neelie Kroes, who has consistently called on regulators to “avoid over-hasty regulatory intervention,” and steer clear of “unnecessary measures which may hinder new efficient business models from emerging.” I couldn't agree more. Changing course now could not only trigger an avalanche of international regulation, but it could halt the progress of freedom’s march as well.
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