Here’s a question: What would you say to a company that approaches you with a new, almost entirely untested technology, promising that it will improve your life and that there are no bugs involved? Odds are that you’d be suspicious, but if the company had a sufficiently trustworthy track record, you might be inclined to give the new tech a go.
If the company was sufficiently trustworthy. But what if that company had instead previously tried to solve a problem with a quick and easy solution, only to make that problem spectacularly worse due to unintended consequences? In that situation, I suspect, you’d slam the door in their face.
Unfortunately, this situation is not hypothetical. For those who follow the arcane world of wireless and spectrum policy, this scenario is precisely what is unfolding in the ongoing battle by Verizon Wireless (among others) to allow the implementation of LTE-U technology.
To explain LTE-U in full would make your eyes glaze over. However, to give you the elevator pitch, LTE-U is, like 4G and LTE before it, a new technology that purportedly will allow those who use it to download and access data on the internet faster. The problem is that in so doing, it may make everyone who doesn’t use it (IE everyone whose wireless provider doesn’t offer LTE-U) suffer, effectively shutting down the internet for many in order that a few might have faster download speeds. The technology’s proponents, which include Verizon, claim this is a non-issue, but when asked to prove this by testing the technology in a neutral and transparent way, they balk.
Reasonable people can and do disagree over just how suspicious this is. But one thing is certain: if conservatives are going to work on the issues surrounding LTE-U, the last people they should trust to reassure them are Verizon.
Why? Because Verizon is terribly bad at considering unintended consequences. Exhibit A in this case is the fight over Net Neutrality. To many conservatives, Verizon Wireless’ lawsuit against Net Neutrality (or, as Sen. Ted Cruz called it, “Obamacare for the internet”) probably seemed heroic: doubly so when Verizon actually won.
However, recent developments suggest that this particular avenue toward overcoming the menace of net neutrality only ended in a dead end. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, Verizon’s triumph in the lawsuit has only led the FCC, under the despotic thumb of Chairman Tom Wheeler, to propose even harsher restrictions for its net neutrality regime. In other words, in shooting from the hip rather than contemplating a longer term strategy to dismantle net neutrality, Verizon threw itself out of the frying pan and into the fire.
This is a live problem, because one of the concerns that conservative opponents of LTE-U, myself included, currently have is that if the technology has the catastrophic effect that a worst case scenario would involve, it would be a gift-wrapped crisis for the power-hungry bureaucrats at the FCC to exploit for further control of the internet. Given that Verizon already handed the FCC one excuse to broaden its powers, it is foolish in the extreme to give them the chance to do it again.