Appoint Internet Activist as Next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission

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Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Appoint activist, professor, and author Susan Crawford as FCC Chairman

The Federal Communications Commission needs new leadership, someone who understands not only the need for regulation that promotes competition and innovation in high-speed internet markets, but also the technical details that would make such regulation possible. Susan Crawford, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age,” has the appropriate qualifications for the position. She served as Special Assistant to the President in Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy during 2009, and she has been hailed as a champion of net neutrality, open internet, and freedom of speech online.

Early this year, in an op-ed piece for the New York Times, Susan Crawford laid out a plan for a reasonably priced, globally competitive, ubiquitous communications infrastructure that would open the door to innovation and competition. She understands policy and the regulations that are needed to combat incumbents with tremendous market power. More than that, she understands the technology itself, to a degree that has won the respect of industry players like Hunter Newby, CEO of Allied Fiber.

She believes “internet access is the heart of a democratic society,” and that high-speed internet should be a utility, just like electricity, federally regulated and available to everyone at an affordable price. Indisputably, a reliable high-speed internet infrastructure is crucial to almost every aspect of our nation’s success and our people’s well-being: education, energy, business, health care, public safety, environmental conservation. Yet that success is being throttled by profit-driven giants and limited to those who can afford it. The FCC has done little in recent years to combat this.

For the majority of us, mention of the FCC likely brings to mind censorship: bleeping out expletives or blurring nudity. But their responsibilities go far beyond enforcement of “moral decency” in public broadcast stations of television and radio. The FCC is pivotal to the growth of our national telecommunications. As a government agency, the FCC has a responsibility to support the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution.

Ten years ago, the United States was at the fore of the Internet revolution, with fast speeds and bargain prices. But now, the broadband and wireless internet landscape is vastly different. Our nation’s high-speed needs are met by a handful of restrictive monopolies that have carved out their territories and jealousy guard their expensive (and limited) fiber infrastructures. Alarmingly, not only do they control how we access information, but they have begun to control what information we have access to. They are waging war on the concept of “net neutrality,” wherein content is not blocked by service providers, and they are driving deeper the wedge of the “digital divide,” the gulf between those who can afford service and those who cannot. Already, one-third of Americans cannot afford high-speed internet, and those who can pay higher prices for substandard service. The U.S. lags behind nearly every other industrialized country in terms of speed, price, and broadband penetration.

So what has the FCC done to counteract the will of these giant, entrenched corporations? The answer is surprisingly little, with a few, rare exceptions, such as opposition to the Comcast-NBC merger from former FCC Chairman Michael Copps, or the recently-proposed public super wifi networks by current Chairman Julius Genachowski.

What we need now is new leadership at the FCC. Susan Crawford is well-qualified and she understands the technology, the players, and the landscape. She knows that with a truly pro-competition agenda, the FCC can unleash American ingenuity. Let’s put her at the helm.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Obama,

At the beginning of the year, you said that during your second term, Americans must act together to “build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.” If the U.S. is to regain its global competitive edge in business, energy, and education, we need pro-innovation, pro-competition regulation in a high-speed internet market that is dominated by incumbent powerhouses with little desire to see change.

Please appoint Susan Crawford as the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is in dire need of leadership who both understands the need for policy that stimulates competition and growth, and holds the technical knowledge to make those regulations feasible. Susan Crawford is well-qualified and she demonstrates a profound vision for the future of high-speed internet for all.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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