Tumblr CEO David Karp was recently reported to have been critical to getting President Obama to call on the FCC to invoke Title II. Today, Karp gave an interview on CNBC about net neutrality, Title II, and its effects on investment. TechFreedom President Berin Szoka offered the following comment:
We’re proud to run TechFreedom.org on Tumblr — probably the first think tank to do so. But as heavy Tumblr users, we beg Mr. Karp to stick to what he knows: building better websites. Given Karp’s key role in convincing the White House to endorse Title II, it’s frightening that he can’t articulate a coherent defense of the idea — the most important policy reversal in the history of communications law.
Karp claims there is a “tremendous amount of throttling” going on, yet offers only one net neutrality violation: Comcast’s 2007 surreptitious throttling of Bittorrent. That could have been addressed by the Federal Trade Commission as a deceptive practice without FCC intervention. Indeed, Tumblr itself took off without any enforceable net neutrality rules. There were no problems in the marketplace — primarily because there has never been a business case for ISPs to do what Karp fears, and many strong incentives not to. Today, Congressional Republicans have offered a legislative compromise that addresses each of the President’s concerns — just as they attempted to pass a legislative compromise back in 2006.
If Karp were willing to take the time to really understand the issues, he’d be calling for Congress to spare the FCC from the chance of losing again in court for the third time. Instead, he’s conflating his hazy conception of “net neutrality” with Title II — two very different issues. As CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out, Title II brings with it an “extra level” of regulation — one whose burdens would, ironically, fall hardest on the very companies working to chip away at cable’s market share: AT&T, Verizon, Google Fiber, wireless companies and other would-be broadband providers. Title II is a self-fulfilling prophecy: it presumes competition is impossible — and keeps it that way. It’s unfortunate that Karp and other tech entrepreneurs have become political pawns of those radical activists whose true goal has never really been to preserve an Open Internet, but rather to impose the greatest possible government control of the Internet.