Former FCC Chairman shills against Net Neutrality

Larry Lessig has written a scorching response to former FCC Chairman William Kennard's NYTime op-ed slamming net neutrality. Kennard now shills for a bunch of the companies he used to regulate, the same companies that are pushing for the right of telcos to discriminate against network services that don't pay protection money for a guarantee that their packets will be delivered to the customers who ask for them. As Craig Newmark put it, it would be like calling Joe's Pizza and having the phone company tell you that since Joe hadn't paid for "guaranteed connections" to you, that you'd have to wait three minutes before they'd put the call though (but you can talk to a Domino's operator right now if you'd like!).

Even if America's broadband strategy doesn't make sense for America, it makes lots of sense for certain companies. Kennard knows this well, because he sits on the board of many of those who benefit most from this deregulation. His op-ed acknowledges his work with the Carlyle Group. He is also on the board of Sprint Nextel Corporation, Hawaiian Telcom and Insight Communications (a cable provider). These companies will benefit directly if Kennard succeeds in getting Congress to forget Network Neutrality. They will become "merely richer" at the expense, I believe, not of Google or eBay, but of the next gang of kids with the next great idea that Google, and eBay (and Comcast and at&t) just don't get.

I don't know Kennard personally. People who do tell me he's an extremely bright, ethical man. I'm sure that's right. But there's something unseemly to me when an FCC Chairman moves to the boards of the companies he used to regulate, and then uses the op-ed page of a paper on whose board he now sits, to argue for the poor by pushing the agenda of the "merely rich." (How can a paper that obsesses to pretend its most brilliant writers have no opinion of their own not wonder about the weirdness here?)

They say Washington has to be like this. You could never get great people into government if they couldn't cash-out once they left. But I bet if the next President demanded of nominees to the FCC that they promise not to take jobs in the industries they regulated for some "limited time" (let's say, the life of a copyright), the President would find lots of qualified nominees. Maybe then it would be easier to hear the pleas for the poor, without the echo of the interests of the "merely rich" confusing the message.


(Thanks, Larry!)