Censorship

Obama FCC Watch

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If you're interested in what policies to expect from Barack Obama's Federal Communications Commission, you've got more to go on than, say, unsourced reports that Hillary Clinton will take over the agency. The president-elect has named an FCC transition team to be led by the legal scholars Kevin Werbach of the Wharton School and Susan Crawford of the University of Michigan.

Both Werbach and Crawford are vocal advocates of the idea that network neutrality should be enforced by law, and Crawford has said she regards Net access as a "utility," always a disturbing choice of words when regulations are at stake. But they're interesting picks for other reasons as well. Crawford is a strong supporter of opening up the "white spaces" between TV signals for unlicensed broadband access, while Werbach has gone even further, advocating some radical ideas for spectrum reform (representing the open-commons wing of the reform community, not the spectrum-as-property wing). I haven't read a lot of Crawford's work, but I know Werbach is a sharp thinker with an appreciation for markets; I have my disagreements with him, but I'd much rather have the next FCC shaped by someone like Werbach than someone like, say, Democratic commissioner Michael Copps, the agency's strongest supporter of censorship and heavy-handed regulation. (Lest we get too sanguine, Obama's agency review team also includes former FCC chief Reed Hundt, who isn't exactly a First Amendment absolutist.)

Speaking of net neutrality: The always-interesting Tim Lee has written a smart paper for the Cato Institute on the subject. Breaking with both traditional camps in the debate, he offers an essentially Hayekian defense of the end-to-end principle as an architectural doctrine and a critique of the idea that the principle should be mandated by statute.