Saturday, 28 June 2008

All Heil the FCC

The US Federal Communications Commission (you know, the geniuses behind the media beat-up of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction) have had another brilliant idea.

I know, they've said . . . let's auction off part of the broadband spectrum to anyone that will provide free Internet without pornography! Or, in their words, a "network-based filtering order to protect children and families."

Recognising this as just one more step back into the Victorian era by a crowd of fascist Luddites, the reaction from the technological crowd has been one of bemusement and muted giggles. The reaction from potential bidders has been more or less non-existent.

Remember when the Howard Government, thinking along similar lines, offered free home-based content filters? Yeah. It took a sixteen-year-old less than 24 hours to crack it.

Hopes and dreams of moral crusaders notwithstanding, the technology required to achieve this just doesn't exist yet. What's more, it's many years of intensive development away.

So here's what will happen:

First, there will be a lot of discussion about freedom of speech from bloggers, and a lot of resistance from the dominant telcos (AT&T etc.). They won't be worried about about the filtering, of course, but about someone providing net access for free.

Then there will be a few parties interested in the auction, but not many. The ultimate price paid will be less than impressive.

Finally once the dust has settled, the costs associated with providing the required porn-free access will blow out massively. Kids will download porn from that spectrum just to show it can be done, and the FCC will be bombarded with complaints from their parents.

The strawman company set up to run the thing will be weighed down by lawsuits and declare bankruptcy, a lot of well-meaning but ignorant creditors will lose their money and the whole project will be summarily abandoned.

Or, there might be a sudden outbreak of common sense and the whole thing might be dropped before it begins. But I wouldn't count on it.