Discovery Institute hack claims no need for national broadband strategy

by Karl Bode, DSLReports

Telephony Online un-skeptically points to a new report (pdf) by a new think tank named Entropy Economics, which magically assumes the organic growth in bandwidth capacity means we don't need a national broadband policy. Because available consumer bandwidth reached 717 terabits per second at the end of 2008 (or a per-capita average of 2.4 megabits per second), we've apparently cured all of our broadband problems.

The "study" strangely tries to argue this growth means critics of our non-existent broadband policy are somehow wrong:

Do U.S. citizens live in a Webified wonderland? Or do they suffer through a digital Dark Age? Several new reports make the dismal Dark Age case, where a faulty broadband policy has starved us of communications power and the educational and economic enlightenment it might bring. But the testimony of many "BlackBerry orphans," "blogginghead" pundits, Web workers, and telepresent tweeting tweens suggested otherwise.

Of course nobody in the sector's arguing we're in the digital dark ages, though there's plenty arguing that we could do much better. The new "study's" author, Bret Swanson, takes this logic a step further when complaining to Telephony Online about how it's unfair to pick on the brilliant progress we've made in the broadband sector:

"The idea that has been thrown around – mostly by groups that may want much heavier regulation of the whole communications media space -- that we live in some sort of digital dark age is not remotely true."

What Telephony Online doesn't tell you, and they probably should, is that Swanson is a pseudo-scientist at the Discovery Institute, which is subsidized by telecom carriers to make the case for deregulation at all costs. The Discovery Institute is essentially a PR firm that will present farmed science and manipulated statistics for any donating constituents looking to make a political point.

They're well known for their work for the evangelical sector in crafting the term "intelligent design," which is used to legitimize creationism as a scientific concept worthy of belonging in science-based classrooms. They're more recently known for creating the term "exaflood," or the idea that unless you give telecom carriers what they want (deregulation, subsidies, the elimination of price controls), the Internet will grind to a halt under the strain of unmanageable growth. The concept has been disproven repeatedly as political junk science.

That hasn't slowed Swanson from his mission -- his new "Entropy Economics" organization was created last March with the idea of further polluting the telecom sector with exaflood rhetoric. The Discovery Institute's tech blog helps create an echo chamber for the meaningless metrics, praising Swanson's findings as "fascinating," arguing that since people use the bandwidth available to them, we clearly don't need a national broadband policy.

All of this makes Swanson's whining about "groups that want heavier regulation" disingenuous, given men like Swanson just got done seeing more than a decade of sustained deregulation in the telecom sector thanks in large part to his own lobbying. The result was the United States setting new records for being thoroughly mediocre, given American consumers pay more money for less bandwidth than a significant number of developed countries.

The reality is, and always has been, that some regulation is good, and some is bad, with each effort requiring debate on its particular merits. Paid deregulatory zealots, blindly following their wallets and the calling of their handlers, are the primary reason the nation is one of very few with no substantive broadband policy whatsoever. The blind deregulation ship has sailed, with or without Mr. Swanson and his team of public relation magicians. If he runs, perhaps he can catch it and save us from another decade of pseudo-scientific nonsense.

article originally published at DSLReports.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey