Lessig Impresses at VON

by Bruce Stewart

Lawrence Lessig seems to have impressed the crowd at VON earlier this week. I'm sorry that I missed his keynote, but I have seen him talk a couple of times recently and know what an excellent speaker he is. Lessig is a perennial favorite at O'Reilly conferences and his ability to see and describe the big picture view and the impending challenges of technological progress is always educational and inspiring. I think Russell Shaw nails it by pointing out that Lessig takes on the large entrenched interests, like copyright absolutists and cable and telco monopolies, while constantly battling for innovation. I also couldn't agree more with Dan York about Lessig's compelling presentation style. He's got the keynote slide show down to an art.

Not surprisingly, Lessig focused his talk at the VON Communications Policy Summit on issues around Network Neutrality. Responding to the recent surge in noise and efforts being made by the incumbent carriers, Lessig warns that we'll pay an economic price if we allow network providers to charge extra carriage fees to large content providers.

The Internet produced by end-to-end applications is more valuable to the economy than the network that gets produced under AT&T ownership.

Like Jeff Pulver, I'm thrilled to see that the Network Neutrality debate is front and center at VON. This is an issue that people need to be more aware of and I think the more public discourse we can get on it, the better off we'll be. Responding to Qwest CEO Richard Notebaert's statements at VON about wanting to charge content providers more for premium arrangements, Preston Gralla over on Networking Pipeline lays down why many in and out of the industry feel a need to insure a neutral network:

This is just plain wrong. The Internet unleashed the biggest burst of innovation in history because deals like this were prohibited. Let telcos start charging extortion fees like this, and that innovation will be in danger.

My favorite post about Lessig's speech was Russell Shaw's In a perfect world, Larry Lessig would be on the FCC. I can't see it happening, but I sure wish it would. Heck, my vote is for the Supreme Court.