Steve Wozniak on the FCC and Internet freedom

For Steve Wozniak, the issue of an open Internet is personal.

Earlier today, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak published a passionate open letter to the FCC that described his personal history with the telecommunications industry.

Wozniak followed that up with a surprise appearance at the Federal Communication Commission’s public hearing on new open Internet rules and net neutrality. Steven Levy of Wired Magazine tweeted about the unexpected arrival: “Woz is at FCC hearing to speak against the plan–sez that with these rules, he couldn’t have done Apple.”

Interviewed by various media outlets after the hearing (see video below), Wozniak explained his presence at the hearing:

I wanted to be here because this day was so significant to my life. I had a ham radio license when I was 10 years old. I had the FCC spectrums on my wall in my room. I grew up admiring the FCC … The FCC has always sort of had a white hat. This is a case where that hat could go black.

Wozniak was not happy with much of what he heard from the commission at today’s hearing:

I don’t think the rules went far enough in protecting individuals, but I tend to be very much on the side of the small guy being taken advantage of by the big guy. I feel sorry about that. I feel emotional about that.

Specifically, Wozniak expressed concerns over blocking issues:

… no blockages doesn’t mean there will be no inhibitions. It wasn’t clear what was presented here today to me if that means you can’t really favor one source over another. You know, an innovator comes along, they shouldn’t have any blocks on the Internet. To me, the Internet, the ISPs, should just be providing things like the copper to your house and the gear that puts it onto the Internet. Step back, get out of the way, don’t try to make it go your way.

Wozniak also noted he had been personally affected by nearly every issue FCC commissioner Michael Copps raised in his statement at the hearing.

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  • Yes, as a consumer and web dev, I care to get netflix and newer innovative online services like Wozniak too.
    But that does not warrant regulation. The net un-neutrality problem does not exist in any meaningful way. Any ISP that is stupid enough to block such a service would suffer a heavy price in the marketplace (ie. bad press and inviting competition). Government and its agencies are much more monopolistic than any company, even dominant ones in some areas, and government also has worse incentives.

    Reason TV has a good video explaining the problem with net neutrality regulation:

  • Todd Spraggins

    I am at a loss in understanding where people claim competition will drive customers to ISPs that do not block. This fundamentally assumes you have a choice and folks we don’t have that. I happen to live in a top 10 metroplex where cable is the only reliable method for Internet. Our 50 year old AT&T CO is 20k+ feet away so they have yet to figure out how to get Uverse to work and the 1st gen DSL has monthly outages lasting 2-3 days. Wireless is spotty for most carriers and can you really take advantage of the Internet with 5MB caps on most new data plans. And speaking of wireless, so when you get pissed at them for blocking a service you depend on you will gladly forfeit your $300 early termination fee?!? Oh, I forgot you had your lawyer negotiate new terms of that 52 page EULA they had you click through (Not!). In fact I suggest you read that again and you will find that some activities are already blocked (though not by technical means) as I know I’m not suppose to do video calls on my AT&T plan.

    The issue gets even worse for those south of the proverbial tracks, making it a digital divide issue as well.

    IMHO the problem here is not an FCC one but rather a FTC one. Common Carriage in commerce goes back to Magna Carta days and having the wrong kind of wonks meddle in the details has gotten neither side anywhere.

  • Alex Tolley

    It is interesting how different issues are conflated. The Reason tv link that Julien posted does just this, in addition to stating falsehoods, suggesting it is just propaganda for the libertarian agenda.

    The bandwidth issue is reasonable, but the reality is that carriers are trying to charge rents by ensuring bandwidth scarcity, resulting in relatively expensive service in the US that is lagging in speed compared to other countries. The best solution is to ensure competition that incentivizes the carriers to maximize bandwidth, not restrict it.

    We should be wary of government interference, but our ISPs folded when Sen. Lieberman asked them to over Wikileaks, and we have evidence that carriers allowed government interference in the related area of phone wiretapping.

    One has to wonder in today’s political climate whether universal access in the phone network would ever have been allowed, or the single rate postage for mail.

  • Sam

    So the FCC won’t let me be or let me be me so let me see. They tried to shut me down on MTV but it feels so empty without me.