On the legislative process
Paul doesn’t think expansive legislation is the best way to address certain technological issues, such as cybersecurity, and I tend to agree. The process is slow, often reactionary to the known threats of the day, and potentially stifling to new approaches and technologies. “By the 24 months it may take to write the rules on cybersecurity, it’s already changed. It changes every day,” Paul said. “[O]ne of the things government is not is agile.”
Rather, on cybersecurity, at least, he suggests facilitating open exchanges between the government and companies around information exchange, and granting companies certain narrow rights to fight cybercrime (although I’m not sure his idea of offering freedom from certain antitrust laws is wise). Maybe they can create a working group dedicated to identifying and stopping the types of attacks everyone is seeing. This, Paul said, would attack problems in lightweight, narrow ways rather than always having to “open Pandora’s box.”
Another of Paul’s ideas is just to let the courts resolve certain technology problems relatively quickly as they arise rather than trying to draft future-proof legislation and regulations. It’s not an ideal solution — courts deal in the specific facts of each case, their precedent is geographically limited and legal contracts could theoretically allow for some rather unethical practices — but it’s not entirely without merit.
On net neutrality
OK, Paul didn’t address net neutrality at the event, but Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy James Gattuso, who emceed the event, did. And Paul has discussed net neutrality before, as detailed here by TechDirt’s Mike Masnick. I’d argue they’re all flat wrong in the idea that government-mandated net neutrality will somehow stifle innovation and consumer choice more than will letting large carriers decide what data gets a free ride on their networks.
The idea of net neutrality actually ties into the recent hoopla over who invented the internet, something Paul did chime in on at the Heritage Foundation event, touting the individuals who took part in it over the government’s involvement. This argument falls short because it ignores the government funding involved in creating the internet, including to those individuals’ employers. As Masnick notes in his post on Paul’s net neutrality stance, the senator also conveniently ignores the government subsidies and rights of way necessary to build the internet’s infrastructure when characterizing it as privately owned infrastructure.
Boiled down to their core, Paul’s views on technology are kind of like an iron fist in a velvet glove (although whether that’s intentional or not is up for debate). They appear to have innovation and consumer rights in mind — and in some cases they do — but giving free rein to large companies with lots of control over the world’s internet experience probably means both causes will suffer in the end.
(c) 2012, GigaOM.com.