I saw this happen a couple time at yesterday's conference: people get up in front of a microphone, they tell pretty obvious and outright lies, but do so in a calm, non-threatening, even friendly manner. Then, when people are incensed by their lying behavior, the liars can portrey their behavior as rational, and the people who attempt to call them out as irrational.
This was most definitely in evidence on the Network Neutrality panel/debate. Chris Wolf, who heads up the faux-organization called "Hands off the Internet," which is actually a front group for major phone companies like Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth, and Steve Effros, who painted himself as an independent even though he's a strategic consultant for major Cable companies and is a "Senior Advisor" for their trade association.
It was sort of maddening, which, I suspect, was part of the point.
I wrote Rep. Anthony Wiener, who was moderating and "trying to make up his mind" the following email:
I was one of the younger audience members who got a little hot under to collar during yesterday's debate. I apologize for that, and for perhaps making the pro-neutrality side seem less calm and professional and well-intentioned as you weigh the issues. Chris Wolf and Steve Effros used a number of disingenuous and provocative tactics in their side of the debate, and in many cases were (in my opinion) telling outright lies.
Anyway, all that aside, I had one constructive comment to add for your consideration.
As you correctly pointed out, the growth of the internet has been driven by innovators in content and services, not by companies building out physical infrastructure. Most users of the internet are not "consumers" of information, or at least not exclusively so. The most important and vital aspect of this network is its bi-directional nature, and the way in which this has empowered individuals to innovate outside an institutional framework.
As Tim Brenners Lee said, he didn't have to ask anyone's permission to invent the world wide web. This is because the fundamental rules have (until now) said that anyone is allowed to send data around any way they please.
This two-way/conversational structure is what makes the internet such an amazing marketplace for information and ideas. Like all marketplaces, it needs some regulation to prevent abuses and keep the action competitive. The Government has a role to play in establishing the rules of the game, and indeed it has historically played this role very well.
Since its inception, the rule of the internet has been that if you own a piece of physical infrastructure -- a pipe, if you will -- you have to treat anyone's data the same. This is a vital part of why the internet has developed so quickly. Without this, we're likely to see many more attempts at corporatized central-planning, backroom deals between big players to offer exclusive "consumer only" services, and a precipitous decline in the ability of individual and small-scale innovators to make an impact.
Without network neutrality, the "next generation" of the internet will likely be the exclusive province of large corporations. Google and Yahoo and Amazon and all those types we talk about, they'll be fine. They may have to pay more money to the telcos, but they can afford it. However, the so-called "marketplace" for next-generation services, whatever they might be, will be limited to these and other large scale players.
The alternative is not what the cable, telco and other last-mile providers would have you think. The First Amendment doesn't make the government a gatekeeper to speech, and a network neutrality statute wouldn't make the FCC the boss of the internet. All we're really talking about is continuing to keep the traffic laws of the internet the same as they have been for the past 15 years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The idea that deregulation in the context of the current marketplace will enhance customer service and promote innovation flies in the face of facts. It's an ideological position, based on the notion private corporations are agile, responsive market players, and government is a lumbering bureaucracy that smothers everything it touches.
You think the government is a frustrating bureaucracy? Try calling up Verizon for technical support. The telco and cable companies are massive and lumbering and full of small-minded people too. The only additional difference is they have a profit motive, aren't accountable to any sort of democratic force, and their leaders have actively stated their desire to annex broadband services as their personal fifedom.
Don't be fooled by the anti-bureaucracy, anti-regulation rhetoric. All we're looking for is the continuation of a level playing field.