Thursday, February 17, 2011

Like the National Broadband Map...Broadband in General? Thank Ed Markey

Markey's Speech Sets the Net Neutrality Agenda vs. "Broadband Barons" 

"You vote for this amendment and you give control to the Broadband Barons … and then you will see an inevitable decline in innovation, in investment, in the private sector, in the new products, the new technology, the new application, these new devices which are basically invented by hundreds and thousands of smaller companies in our our county." - Ed Markey, 02-17-2011 02/17/2011 San Francisco - The U.S. telecommunications industry today reached a high water mark with the publication of the National Broadband Map. Let us now praise famous men, or at least one guy from Malden, Mass. that got us here.

Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA-07)
The  #NBM launched today to cheers across the tech sector. Two years ago today President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law with a $7.2 billion shot in the arm for our beleaguered industry. Obama is here in San Francisco tonight as well, meeting with the corporate and venture capital leaders of American tech. Their names include Chambers, Doerr, Ellison, Jobs, Schmidt, and Zuckerberg. Their ability to employ thousands of Americans is based in a robust and truly open Internet.

Sure, many of us had hoped for an even more thorough look at the true nature of broadband deployment than we see today in the first iteration of the new map. Yup, the broadband stimulus has problems, some of which seem to drag on. Often it seems more problems by the day. We've been screaming these problems for a long time. Nope, the FCC's net neutrality order is not what many of us would like to see. Yup, the very attributes of the open Internet are today under assault, as the new Majority on Capitol Hill attacks even the de minimis FCC Order.

In the daily battle that has become the making of tech and telecom policy in the United States, it is easy to forget that none of this was ordained. Not the foundation of competition on which the Internet economy sits. Not a federally funded commitment to broadband for unserved areas. Not even a simple map of where broadband exists. 
Achieving each of these elements was a fight. Each was a struggle, as each is today, because entrenched former monopolies didn't - and don't - want them to happen.

A singular leader in the fight for competition, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the American technology sector is the same federal legislator who inserted the broadband stimulus, the National Broadband Map, and the National Broadband Plan itself into the Recovery Act. He authored the Broadband Data Improvement Act (BIDA), which prior to the funding under the stimulus provided the legal framework for the Map. That same Member of Congress is the father of the federal Telecom Act of 1996, the critical regulatory foundation of the open competitive Internet the United States has today. Same guy.

Up in Malden Square the political boyos still talk about the time in 1976 when Tommy McGee put Eddie Markey's desk out in the basement hall at the State House. For most state reps that type of treatment would be a good excuse to fall in line behind a dictatorial Speaker of the House. Most chastised reps would say, "OK, Mistah Speakaa, I'm with yaa, how about a few more jobs from Probation at my courthouse?" Not Eddie Markey.  

Edward J. Markey knew the patronage and campaign dollar shakedowns for judgeships McGee was running were wrong. He knew that there was a better way to do things, and he was going to see them done. So the next morning there's the photo of Eddie Markey's desk sitting in the basement plastered on the front page of the Globe and Herald. They read the Globe out in the Volvo suburbs along Route 128, aka America's Technology Highway. The Herald, not so much. Those leafy towns sheltered the brains, investment capital, and federal defense - intelligence community river of federal dollars that would make much of the early Internet work. They mostly read the Herald in and around Markey's hometown of Malden. Together they did however all sit in Congressman Torbet Macdonald's district. 

"So when Torby himself dies in office," the boyos remind us, "well, all these good government types out in Cawcaad and Waayland they couldn't get outta their big houses fast enough to vote Maaakey." So it has been for Congressman Ed Markey of the Massachusetts Seventh for 35 years. He has made a political career out of doing the right thing for his district and for the nation. 

Ed Markey spoke from the well of the House today. 

In a floor speech against the Republican effort to wipe out the Open Internet Order of the FCC, he reminded us that the big telephone companies fighting net neutrality today wanted nothing to do with the Internet to begin with. Had they had their way, the Internet as we know it today would not exist. The companies headed by those tech titans meeting with President Obama would not exist. The National Broadband Map would not exist. The big telcos, remember, consider that data "proprietary." To them it isn't any business of the American people, or of American businesses, what broadband infrastructure is located where.

So, enjoy the first comprehensive National Broadband Map the country as ever officially produced. Enjoy a still open Internet based on a competitive telecom infrastructure.

As you do, remember a guy that stared down Tommy McGee in the basement of the Massachusetts Statehouse years ago. More than any single living American, he made these things possible.
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