A Fond Farewell

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Alas it is time for the changing of the guard in the US. Thus another partial disconnect is upon us. Accordingly it is with a tinge of sadness that we say a fond farewell to Tom Wheeler at the FCC, and to Lawrence Strickland at the NTIA, along with the rest of the cadre appointed by former President Barack Obama. I wish them all well in their future endeavours. In my view they have served their country and our science and technology global community with distinction. As a parting gift they shared with us certain nascent policy benchmarks to enable us to assess their new administration against; as we pivot towards Klaus Schwab's Forth Industrial Revolution.

Chairman Wheeler gifted us the White Paper Cybersecurity Risk Reduction from 18th January 2017, produced by David Simpson at the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.  Assistant Secretary Strickland gifted us the Green Paper Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things, produced by the DoC Internet Policy Task Force and Digital Economy Leadership Team from January 2017 President Obama gifted us the Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Economy report from December 2016 produced by his Executive Office.

Within these three documents there are rich pickings to be had. I say this simply because documents at this high level of abstraction are written with regard to the levers of power to implement policy to address the: what can be done - when can it be done by - issues.

First though let us now absorb some of Tom and Lawrence's own assessments of their period in office.

Tom Wheeler

I have drawn from this font of wisdom in many a blog posting, simply because Tom has set the global agenda with his leadership. His final remarks were delivered on the 13th January, to the Aspen Institute, in a speech "A Time to Look Forward: Protecting What Americans Now Enjoy".

Naturally this speech encompasses his short term as Chairman, and that of his predecessor Julius Genachowski. It clearly and succinctly identifies all the policy benchmarks as one would naturally expect.

However, Tom's speech is in essence a critique of the Open Internet and a eulogy on Net Neutrality.

Therein Tom states:

"We are at a fork in that road. One path leads forward. The other leads back to re-litigating solutions that are demonstrably working. Looking forward is an era of ISPs operating responsibly at both the edge and the core network under light touch regulation accompanied by a referee on the field to throw the flag when necessary. Looking backward takes away existing protections and throws into question ISP expansion into edge activities...........All the press reports seem to indicate that the new Commission will choose an ideologically based course........The most compelling reason to keep moving forward on our current course with broadband policy is this: the open Internet is the law of the land. Tampering with the rules means taking away protections consumers and the online world enjoy today. What some describe as "free market economics" cannot mean simply freeing incumbents of their responsibilities. A hands-off approach to network oversight is more than a shift in direction, it is a decision to remove rights and move backward.

In this regard - and in so much that has occurred since the election - I have taken refuge in Abraham Lincoln's words in his First Inaugural. "While the people retain their virtue, and vigilance, no administration ... can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years."The reassurances of the second part of that statement are predicated on the first part, the requirement that the people "retain their virtue and vigilance."

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