Pundits and talking heads have debated the Bradley Effect (or, as we locals call it, the Wilder Effect) and whether Obama’s current lead in the polls represents false positive. Even before Obama, there existed considerable evidence that the Bradley Effect was fading. Having canvassed this weekend in VA, I have concluded that it has pretty much vanished.
Why? Because conservative talk radio and Fox News have given voters the tools they need to say things that might sound racist, but don’t really make you a racist for saying them. Whatever one may think of this as an argument, it has had the enormous benefit of eliminating the polling problems associated with the embarrassment of being mistaken for a racist when you are simply saying things that only sound racist.
Two quotes from former FCC Chair and McCain tech adviser Michael Powell nicely illustrate the fundamental thrust of the plan. Not so coincidentally, both come from Powell’s first press conference as Chair of the FCC.
“I don’t believe deregulation is like the dessert that you serve after people have fed on their vegetables, like a reward for competition,” Powell said. “I believe deregulation is instead a critical ingredient to facilitating competition, not something to be handed out after there is a substantial number of players and competitors in the market.”
“I think the term [digital divide] sometimes is dangerous in the sense that it suggests that the minute a new and innovative technology is introduced in the market, there is a divide unless it is equitably distributed among every part of the society, and that is just an unreal understanding of an American capitalistic system. I think there is a Mercedes divide. I would like to have one, but I can’t afford one. I’m not meaning to be completely flip about this. I think it’s an important social issue, but it shouldn’t be used to justify the notion of, essentially, the socialization of deployment of the infrastructure.”
Once you accept the “Mercedes Divide” frame, you have run out of tools to deal with the issues because, by definition, whatever the market provides is what result you should get. McCain, obviously, does not wish to accept this rather obvious consequence, and therefore falls back on the usual platitudes and reliance on the gods of the marketplace, the competition fairy, and the delightful myth that — Adam Smith to the contrary — getting a collection of companies with similar interests together to regulate themselves will somehow work.
Surprisingly, as David Isenberg noted on his blog, what is amazing is that the plan leaves out the few bright stars of Michael Powell’s tenure at the FCC — notably Powell’s commitment to spectrum reform. While I certainly opposed Powell’s efforts to make spectrum licenses a species of property I enthusiastically applauded his equal willingness to engage seriously on opening more spectrum for non-exclusive unlicensed use (you can see a very old primer of mine from the dawn of the spectrum reform debates here). Perhaps spectrum reform proved too complicated or controversial an issue for McCain to address, even buried at the bottom of a tech policy.
But having ruled out open spectrum, McCain has left himself very few tools to actually provide all the benefits he promises. Rather like the current administration, which will tell you that Bush achieved his 2004 promise of universal broadband by 2007 so shut the heck up about those stupid international rankings, McCain’s tech platform will work swimmingly for true believers unconcerned with the impact on actual reality. Below, I draw out the substantive problems with the McCain tech & privacy plans in greater detail, and explain why the Obama plan actually looks like it would make real improvements in people’s lives because Obama recognizes that there is a real difference between “the government needs to build roads rather than wait for car companies to build them” and mandating that “everyone must have a Mercedes.”
Today’s NYT has this op ed on Obama’s use of text messaging to announce his VP pick. It provides a nice reminder about the importance of the pending Petition by PK and others on text messaging. Filed after Verizon denied NARAL a short code but reversed itself within 24 hours the mobile texting petition often gets bundled with the Comcast complaint as if they were essentially two examples of the same thing. They aren’t. The Comcast complaint asked the FCC to follow through on its previous commitment to prevent broadband providers from blocking or degrading content or applications. For all the (well deserved) hoopla around the decision, it was at heart, as Commissioner Tate described, “a normal enforcement proceeding, regarding a particular complaint within the confines of the specific circumstances presented.”
The Petition for Declaratory Ruling on mobile text messaging and short codes is not a complaint (although it is an adjudication). It does not seek to punish Verizon as a bad actor, and it only refers to the NARAL incident as an illustration of why the Commission needs to act. Rather, we ask the Commission to decide — for the first time — whether mobile text messaging is a Title II telecommunications service, like the underlying phone number and voice service. If the Commission decides that it is a actually a Title I enhanced service (like the internet access you can buy separately), we ask the FCC to impose rules that would prevent wireless carriers from denying a short code to someone or from messing with anyone’s text messaging.
Not that Verizon or any other provider would be so foolish as to deny the Obama or McCain campaigns short codes or block their text messages. I’m not even worried about independent candidates like Barr and Nader. No, I’m worried about us ordinary schlubs, or even unpopular folks who can’t count on getting a front page story on the NYT if something happens but still deserve the right to organize and spread their message to willing listeners.
The Stevens Bill contains a section called “Municipal Broadband” (Title V) and calls itself the “Community Broadband Act of 2006.” Given that that McCain and Lautenberg introduced a pro-munibroadband bill in 2005 called “The Community Boradband Act of 2005,” and that the House overwhelmingly adopted language identical to the McCain-Lautenberg language in COPE, you might think that I would put Title V in the “Good Parts” section.
GOTCHA! That clever Senator Stevens, who apparently has confused the definition of “competition” and “cartel” (Hey, they both begin with “C”! He’s old! Give the man a break!), has tricked you! Like predators in nature that camoflage themselves to look like pretty flowers before they SPRING UPON THEIR HELPLESS PREY AND DEVOUR THEM, The Stevens “Community Broadband Act” will allow local governments to give gobs of money to private companies, but will not allow local governments to do something as outrageous as compete with private companies.
Impressed? Amazed? Astounded? Well see below . . . .