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tv   The Communicators Tom Wheeler  CSPAN  March 9, 2019 6:29pm-7:02pm EST

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power. she wrote letters to a supreme court justice and members of congress that were completely confident, 100% about politics, and were not noticeably different than a letter emilio would write. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television company. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. peter: so tom wheeler, what do
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martin luther and mark zuckerberg have in common? tom: [laughter] they both figured out how to take a new network technology and make it work for them. peter: and how did they do that? tom: well, martin luther had the great advantage that when he tacked his 95 thesis to the church door, they were able to go from there to this new technology called the printing press and suddenly be disseminated across europe. you know, luther's ideas were not unique. were not unusual. there had been multiple clergymen making those kind of arguments previously.
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but the reach of their message had been limited to the reach of their voice. and suddenly, martin luther had this new technology called the printing press that made him the first mass media evangelist, so it took off. mark zuckerberg had a similar kind of situation. as a matter of fact, mark zuckerberg continued to evolve as we moved from the wired internet to the wireless internet. and there was a point in time in the history of facebook where there were serious concerns as to whether they were keeping up with the fact that the world was going wireless. and he made a pivot. and succeeded on it. so both of them were enabled by new network technology. peter: and in your new book, "from gutenberg to google," you talk about the fact that it's not necessarily the inventers who know how to use this
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technology. it's people like martin luther and mark zuckerberg. tom: you know, peter, one of the interesting things that i discovered and was able to substantiate, in "from gutenberg to google," is that it's never the primary network that is transformative. but it's the secondary effects of that network. it's how, for instance, the printing press not only enabled luther, but allowed the renaissance to come out of northern italy. it's how the first high-speed network, the railroad, created the industrial revolution. and how the first electronic network, the telegraph, allowed for the creation of a national news media and a national financial system.
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markets, national markets. it's always the secondary effect. and that's what mark zuckerberg and larry page are showing with facebook and google and other activities. peter: so can you compare the development of railroad in the u.s. to the development of the internet in the u.s.? tom: oh, absolutely. so the railroad, as i said, was the first high-speed network. peter: high speed being relative in this case. tom: but stop and think about it, peter. for the entire history of mankind, geography and distance had ruled. everything was circumscribed by how far an animal, man or beast, could go in a day and then rest and then move on further. and suddenly, there comes this
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revolution of the steam locomotive that moves at multiples of that speed. you know, it's funny. i tell stories in "from gutenberg to google" about some of the early train passengers. and how they would take pieces of paper and pencils with them and see if it would be possible to write at 20 miles an hour. because nobody had ever moved that fast. and maybe their brains wouldn't work as well. there were these kinds of things that were going on that were transforming the way in which people connected. and my belief is that we are as we connect. the most important aspect of
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human relationships, both economic and social, are the networks that connect us. and the railroad changed the nature of connections. the telegraph changed the nature of connections. the internet changed the nature of connections, in the same kind of way. peter: so, samuel morris, what was his actual role in the development of the telegraph? you don't seem to be a fan of his, necessarily. tom: [laughter] he was a great promoter. there's multiple aspects of looking at morris. one is he was hampered by the absence of the technology that he was working on, because he didn't know that over in the u.k., there had already been experiments and demonstrations of his concept. he didn't know, or at least
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claimed not to know, that joseph henry, here in the united states, had already run trials to demonstrate this. and he was enough of a narcissist, i guess, to say -- to describe his idea as a, quote, "flash of genius." and to not be above swiping ideas from others, such as joseph henry, and to make it work. but he was a great promoter. and it was that promotion that got him the contract from united states government to build the first line between here and washington and baltimore. peter: your book is a lot about individuals. this is a book about individuals. and we're currently in the third revolution as you describe it. tom: right. peter: what does that mean?
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tom: well, what i'm saying is that the first great network revolution was the original information revolution, was gutenberg freeing up information and freeing up the expansion of knowledge. and then 400 years later, the second revolution, which came kind of like this, was two things together. it was the first high-speed network, the railroad, and the first electronic network, the telegraph. and those two created the industrial revolution, urbanization, the mass media, the kinds of things that we take for granted today. i always chuckle when people say, oh, we've never had the kind of change we've had. baloney! i mean, think about the middle
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of the 19th century when suddenly distance, which had defined your life, doesn't exist anymore. cities are pulling people and youth off of the farm and into the cities. the agricultural economy is being changed dramatically to an industrial economy. and, oh, by the way, when these masses of people go into the city, what happens? you have challenges of urbanization that we'd never seen before. so you have cholera outbreaks, because there's no sewer and water system that can be kept sanitary. so you have to deal with, how are we going to have safe water and sewage? you've thrown people together in a confined area.
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and there is a need for police protection. there is a need for a fire service that serves everybody, not just a few. there is a challenge of, how are we going to move from the one-room school house to an educational structure that handles masses of young people but prepares them for the shop floor? same kind of thing. how are we going to deal with health care? it ain't the town doc anymore. and you've got masses of people with health problems. how do you develop hospitals and health delivery, health care delivery systems? and so, in the middle of the 19th century, we, society, had
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to develop new ways of dealing with the challenges created by the new networks. and i think that that's the lesson that we can take to today. one of our challenges today is that we lack perspective. and what i'm trying to do with "from gutenberg to google" is to say, ok, how can we put today's technological challenges in perspective with other technological challenges of history? because, one, today's new technology is actually derivative of these earlier revolutions. and the economic and social upheaval that result from the new networks also looks pretty close to the kind of challenges we had before.
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and my takeaway is that, what made america great was that we stepped up and dealt with those challenges. we didn't try and flee them. we didn't try and retreat to some halcyon period when things seemed like they must have been better. we stepped up and said, here's the challenge. let's deal with it. and we dealt with it collectively. peter: and in that collective dealing with a challenge, is that a regulatory framework? is that a government participation? tom: so, what we found was that the rules that had governed agrarian mercantilism didn't work in an industrial era. and that the innovators were the ones who were making the rules and that they were making those
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rules to benefit themselves. nothing surprising there. and so the people, acting through their representatives, stepped up and said, no, wait a minute. we need to worry about how we set expectations and rules-based behavior for these forces that are determining how we live our lives and how our economy works. and i would submit to you that those rules saved industrial capitalism by saying, here are the structures within which you can work, and that the challenge we have today is, how do we come up with a set of rules for internet capitalism? peter: did you feel that way when you were head of the cable
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industry association or the wireless industry association? tom: the great thing that i had when i was running both of those trade associations was that we were the new technology. we were the new networks. and we were talking to the government about, how does public policy reflect this new reality? how does a public policy where television had always been based on scarcity, deal with the issue of diversity of voices that's enabled by cable television? how does a public policy, that has been built around a telephone monopoly, deal with the competitive choices that were available in wireless? and so that whole experience,
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very much underpins how i wrote this book, where i came from in writing this book. and then the great privilege of becoming chairman of the federal communications commission. i suddenly had the responsibility of making decisions about how policy should deal with the changes, the technology that it was delivering to us today. and to do this at a time when technology was coming at us like a freight train. peter: well, we recently had the current chair of the f.c.c., ajit pai, on this program. we asked him a question. and i want you to hear the question, his answer, and get your response. philosophically, as we get more and more commingled with
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networks and cable companies and google, facebook, etc., etc., at what point is the f.c.c. -- pardon me -- but irrelevant to our media world? chairman pai: so this is one of the things that i've consistently said from my first days on the commission back in 2012. we need to get the denominator right. what i mean by that is figuring out the full scope of competition in every one of these marketplaces. i think if you were to tell the average person under 25 or 30, for example, yes, the f.c.c. considers the marketplace for information to be solely newspapers, broadcast tv stations, broadcast radio stations. they would look at you as if, have you not heard of this thing called the internet? well, technically speaking, our rules don't take into account some of the effects of the internet. that's part of the reason why we want to make sure we have an intellectually honest discussion about what is competition in this marketplace, where, for example, do we see the example of digital advertising?
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broadcasters and the like. that's the kind of thing we want to encourage a conversation about. because ultimately, the f.c.c.'s rules cannot reflect the marketplace of 2018 if the marketplace conception that we've created for ourselves is one that's based on 1976 or 1975. peter: tom wheeler, what'd you hear? tom: so, i think that chairman pai is correct when he says that the world is changing and the marketplace is changing. he and i have vastly different approaches to how to deal with that change. and i believe that we have a collective responsibility to set a set of ground rules that establish expectations for companies. and you don't have to micromanage. you don't have to thwart innovation. but you do have to say, you
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know, here are the four corners of expectations. and i think that the chairman and i disagree on that. peter: before we get too far, i mentioned that this book is about individuals. we talked about gutenberg. we talked about samuel morris. we talked about railroads. who are the fathers and mothers of the third revolution that we're in? is it mark zuckerberg, steve jobs, bill gates? are they derivative? tom: so i had the great privilege, and that's the only word you can use, in life of knowing paul baron. and paul baron is the man who developed the concept of digital packet switching, and that is at the heart of everything that we do today on the internet. and so i begin the book by
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talking about paul baron and the development of digital packet switching. and the interesting thing, peter, is that what paul did was to pick up on some ideas that gutenberg had. and to break a connection into its smallest parts, send it out over a distributed network and then reassemble it, just like gutenberg said let's break the page down into its smallest part, the letter, and then reassemble that and reuse it. and so there is a history of these kinds of ideas repeating themselves.
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and i just found that terribly fascinating. peter: you also talk about something i've never heard of, from iowa, 1937, john vincent. thank you. who was that? tom: amazing professor at iowa state university. who developed the first electronic, digital computer. as the world was trying to figure out how this computing idea works. and the story -- and i'm not going to preempt it because i want your viewers to go buy "from gutenberg to google" so they can read this wonderful story, but he developed it. you just can't make this stuff up. he developed it on the back of a cocktail napkin over a bourbon and soda in a roadhouse. peter: in illinois. tom: in illinois, because he had
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to drive from dry iowa across the mississippi river to illinois, where he could get a drink. peter: so is he one of the fathers of the third revolution? tom: without a doubt. and he never got his recognition. his idea was swiped by some folks over here in the east coast academic institutions. he went off to do other things, because the second world war intervened. eventually, his work was recognized by the united states court of appeals, in a lawsuit, as to just where did this idea come from? and the poor guy, his decision occurred the day before nixon's saturday night massacre. and all of the newspapers and all the media outlets were all about that and not about who the true father of the electronic
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computer is. peter: so, tom wheeler, when you look back to 2015 and the beginning of our net neutrality debate and regulation here in the states, how does that fit into "gutenberg to google"? does it? tom: that wasn't the beginning. peter: right. tom: we passed our rules in 2015. and i think it is quite consistent with what we've seen over time. you know, i talked about the railroad as the first high-speed network. the railroad's gotten abusive in the way they were handling traffic. congress stepped in and created the interstate commerce commission in 1887. and much like the f.c.c., the i.c.c. had fits and starts on, what's the way to deal with the
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networks until teddy roosevelt became president and led the country to reframing the power of the icc to around judgments as to what's just and reasonable. and the idea of open access to networks on just and reasonable terms is exactly what we enacted in 2015 in the open internet rules. peter: so if net neutrality, as enacted by the f.c.c., under your chairmanship, does not exist, is it ok, in your view, for california to develop its own net neutrality rules? tom: well, i think it's a consequence.
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it follows as the night the day. or is it the day as the night? i never can get that straight. but if the federal government has stepped aside and the agency responsible for america's networks says, no, we don't have this responsibility anymore for internet networks, and we are a federal system, then why should we be surprised if the states step up? and, you know, the interesting thing here, peter, is that -- one of my favorite oscar wilde quotes is that there are two great tragedies in life. not getting what you want and getting it. and i think with the trump f.c.c., that those networks regulated by the f.c.c. have
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gotten everything they want and they turn around and they say, oh, my goodness. there's a void there. we need some kind of rules. and so they turn around and they go to congress and they say, we need to preempt what california has done. adam smith, of all people, the ultimate laissez-faire market economist, adam smith said, you know, a market can't work without rules. and i think that the companies are probably discovering that now and that's why they're now in congress, saying, oh, you can't have all these different rules around the country. well, they had a uniform set of rules on open internet. they had a uniform set of rules on privacy. that got overturned in the trump
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administration, and the consequences are clear. peter: so something else you've written about is the oncoming 5g revolution, in a sense. tom: right. peter: with 5g, do you fear a cyber war? do you fear for our security? tom: well, one of the things i talk about in "from gutenberg to google" is how one of the big four forces that will determine what our future looks like, because remember, it's called "from gutenberg to google: the history of our future." and one of the big four that will determine our future is cyber security, because networks have always been attack vectors. i don't care whether it's the road network or the water network or the airwaves or whatever. those have always been attack vectors.
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and why should we, therefore, be surprised when we see that the network of the 21st century is being used to attack us? so if we know that, the question then becomes, what are we gonna do about it? and if the most important network is probably going to be the wireless network, now in shorthand described as 5g, the fifth generation wireless network, what are we doing now to get in front of the threats that we know are coming? and it's one of the things that we tried to do at the f.c.c. when i was there that unfortunately the trump f.c.c. has walked away from. peter: and you've, in a recent new york times op ed, you wrote that security needs to be baked into this internet of things. tom: we had a basic idea.
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you need to build into the 5g standard. standards that will protect and anticipate cyber threats. first time ever that a network standard was as a forethought rather than an afterthought dealing with cyber. and then we opened what's called the notice of inquiry, in which we asked the best minds in technology to tell us, ok, how do you provide those kinds of protections? and, again, unfortunately, when the trump f.c.c. came in, they shut down both of those activities. and so i think we have reason to ask ourselves, what is our government doing today? and by the way, the things that are being done in so far as what equipment can be bought and this
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sort of stuff, is important steps. i'm not making light of them. but we also need to think about, how does that network operate? and who's going to oversee that? peter: so tom wheeler, in 10 years, are we going to recognize the internet? that we know today? is it a new internet? tom: yeah, i think this is where the other forces that i talk about, as the forces that will determine our future. the internet came alive with the worldwide web, right? it allowed us to go find information and retrieve it. it allowed us to go send e-mails, find video, do our own blogs, and things like this. but that was always a transportation activity. i'm transporting things from point a to point b. what we're gonna see now with 5g
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and with the combination of ubiquitous networks, as in 5g, and ubiquitous computing, as to low-cost. moore's law has come to life with chips in everything, is that our network is not going to be about transportation as much as it's going to be about orchestration. what is an autonomous vehicle, for instance? it's the orchestration of vast amounts of data, on the fly, to produce a new product. the ability of cars to avoid hitting each other. somebody once estimated that in a day, an autonomous vehicle will produce 3,000 times more
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data than an individual produces today. and that data is going to have to be orchestrated. and that orchestration is goinge new web, what we call web three dial. peter: from gutenberg to google, the largest company in the world doesn't own any cars. the largest room accommodation service owns no real estate. tom wheeler, former chairman of .he sec -- of the fcc thank you. tom: thank you, peter. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's
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cable television companies. today we continue to bring you unfiltered congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. now a news conference with congressional democratic leaders netegislation to restore neutrality rules. in 2017 the s -- the fcc voted to repeal the obama era rule established in 2015. this is half an hour.


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