Doc Searls is a Thief

Doc Searls proposes stealing my money so he can have the net he wants:

Here's a question: should the decision to build the Net to maximum capacity--the broadest we can make broadband--be based on whether or not today's carriers can think of a way to pay back the cost of building it?

While we're answering that, let's ask if the Net should be private at all. Are the rivers and seas private? How about the Interstate Highway System?

The answer to Doc's first question is no. It should be based on whether it's worth it to each individual to shell out his or her own money to pay to build it. Whether that's "today's carriers" or tomorrow's entrepreneur is irrelevant. As to the second question: the rivers and interstate highway system are indeed private. They are owned by a giant monopoly corporation full of corrupt executives called the United States Government. This corporation stole my parents' money to build the Interstate Highway System and continues to steal my money in a way that is completely uncorrelated with how much I use it. This group of thugs is not responsible for building the rivers and seas, so I'm not sure how it's relevant to Searls's argument.

Searls continues his horrible analogy:

According to Wikipedia, the Interstate Highway System cost $114 billion to build. Can we even begin to calculate what it would cost us today not to have it? Or to estimate the cost of building it now? We need people with imagination talking to Congress, not just carriers and Wall Street analysts. We need to tell Congress what kinds of activity and what kinds of business are made possible by a public Internet with maximized capacity. What boats get floated by symmetrical 100Mb or 1Gb bandwidth to homes and businesses?

That's for entrepreneurs to figure out. If Searls wants to put up his own money to build his dream net, that's fine with me, but stay the hell away from my wallet, asshole. You are a dangerous person if you think you can somehow determine better than me how my money is best spent, or if you think those corrupt asssholes in Washington who can't even balance their own budget or practice GAAP can decide on my behalf.

On the other hand, Searls's analogy of the seas and rivers (but not the Interstate Highway System) does apply to something else: electromagnetic spectrum. We have this huge natural resource that's been extremely poorly allocated because those same idiots in Washington insist on deciding for the rest of us how to carve it up. Truly private, transferrable allocations of spectrum would go a long way to establishing the sort of net Searls wants. It won't necessarily be fiber to the home unless someone wants to pay for that out of their own wallet. Wireless doesn't require nearly the kind of infrastructure investment that fiber does, and we'd have wireless gigabit to our homes in a few years if spectrum weren't so poorly allocated.

Share this

Searls doesn't seem to

Searls doesn't seem to recognize that net neutrality *is* based on interference with business--specifically, proposed FCC intervention to prevent telcoms and cable companies from entering into contracts with customers to provide different classes of service over their networks.

The best commentary I've read to date on net neutrality that actually shows a deep understanding of the business and economic aspects of the Internet is an analysis by Blair Levin, Rebecca Arbogast, and David Kaut for Stifel/Nicolaus, titled "Net Neutrality: Value Chain Tug of War" (summarized very briefly here:, and reiterated here: Also good are Adam Thierer's paper for Cato ("Net Neutrality: Digital Discrimination or Regulatory Gamesmanship", here: and Martin Geddes' commentary at his Telepocalypse blog (e.g., If you read Geddes or Thierer, you'll be way ahead of most commentators on "net neutrality." My own contribution on the debate is here:, in which I point out that different classes of service are *already* being used and sold in the backbone world.

Disclosure: I'm an employee of Global Crossing, a global telecom with a stake in the debate, though a stake very different from either the RBOCs or the cable companies. We have no consumer customers and relatively little "last mile" coverage, except for metro fiber rings in 26 U.S. and European cities. In the Levin/Arbogast/Kaut paper, they point out that the RBOC/cable control is over the local "last mile" connectivity and they are trying to divert attention from this fact by talking about alleged congestion on their backbones. There is no backbone congestion issue, and there is plenty of competition in the backbone space (where Global Crossing is a significant player). Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, and are not necessarily shared by my employer. Global Crossing supports employee blogging.

Here here. I'm afraid that

Here here. I'm afraid that this government supplied broadband idea might get some traction, and it's nice you brought up the EM spectrum.

The reason I'm afraid is plain and simple: censorship. The EM spectrum is the most censored medium in existence. Broadcasters can't say and do what they want. A company gets fined for showing Janet Jackson's chest, another looses its morning show due to swearing, and on and on. Mind you these fines are extremely stiff too.

Apparently the Democrats haven't woken up that their free broadband will one day end up in the hands of Republicans. That second bunch of idiots like to play the abusive father figure. I could sum up the scene now with the Dems as mom, the Repubs as dad:

Mom: Johnny wants Internet access. It's really cheap, affordable, and will help in with his studies.
Dad: Oh all right.

Months later Dad is poking through the browser's history and sees sites like,, and Dad immediately finds Johnny, smacks him around some, locks him in his room for a month, cancels the Internet account, and calls up the reverend. After a month, Johnny is really pissed and leaves home[land].

Nolan, what's censored is

Nolan, what's censored is broadcast, not spectrum. Commercial radio services are not to my knowledge censored, and nobody talked about censoring cellphones even when they were just narrowband FM which could easily be picked up by a scanner. Nobody is talking about censoring WiFi networks either. On the other hand, the FCC is talking about censoring cable television, which has nothing to do with radio.

Fairly Robust Sean Lynch

Fairly Robust
Sean Lynch gets slightly medieval on Doc Searls. Rightly so.

The main cost of not having

The main cost of not having the Interstate comes, it seems to me, from the very fact of having it. Access to subsidized highway transportation, at a cost that has little if anything to do with the costs one imposes on the system, encourages a business model that relies heavily on the Interstate. In other words, the Interstate has generated distance between things and thus increased our dependence on the Interstate. But to the extent that it is only cost-effective when part of the costs are externalized, that means the creation of the Interstate resulted in a net loss in efficiency. Overall, we'd be be better off if it had never been built.

Good point, Kevin! So what

Good point, Kevin! So what you're saying is, without a government subsidized interstate, maybe we wouldn't have the Teamster's Union and be drinking Florida orange juice in California and California orange juice in Florida!

Of course, I like Amazon but I'd be willing to pay a bit more for the convenience, especially if it meant I was covering the actual cost of their use of the freeway system. Of course, if I weren't at the same time paying for the Teamsters' pension fund, it might not be so much more expensive!

Wow, so many little yellow

Wow, so many little yellow heads to choose from. I'll go with this one.


I do think this issue plays into the whole "net neutrality" debate. Government has been looking for an excuse to regulate the Internet, and they think they've found their smoking gun in so-called tiered service. Why we need the government to protect us from faster Amazon is beyond me, and I can virtually guarantee you that government will use this opportunity to impose even greater restrictions.

I like where your head's at

I like where your head's at with this post. It should be up to those creative sprits in America and the rest of the world to develop and create the future of the interent and decide how it should be used. Not the government. I couldn't agree more.