(Kelsey Kirchmann) In 1999, I was nine-years-old. I had never been out of the country, I had never operated a motor vehicle and I was five years away from holding my first real job as a line cook in a pizza joint. I had barely discovered the Internet past AOL Instant Messaging in the elementary school computer lab.
1999 was an exciting year. This new currency called the Euro was established as the official currency of the eurozone (which did not yet include Greece). The world population reached 6 billion people, ExxonMobile became the world’s largest company and this guy named Hugo Chavez became the President of Venezuela.
Bill Gates’ fortune exceeded 100 billion dollars with the release of Windows 98. This amazing new music-sharing site called Napster was launched and the music was totally free (until they were prosecuted for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement). Apple released the Power Macintosh G4. China started restricting the use of the Internet in these things called Internet cafes. We were all afraid Y2K was going to be the beginning of Armageddon, starting with our bank accounts because you just can’t trust those computers.
At that time we had no idea about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Hulu or Groupon. Google was a brand new search engine, a few years away from its IPO. We didn’t use the word netizen and we spent significantly less time on the Internet. Oh, and did I mention there were no smartphones (collectve gasp).
This project was launched after the FTC published a staff discussion draft in 2010 of policy recommendations to “support the reinvention of journalism”. These policy suggestions include massive federal subsidies for the press, a journalism division of AmeriCorps, expanded postal subsidies and taxes on cell phones and consumer electronics to pay for it all.
Now please pause for a moment to take all of that in. How different would our world be if those policy suggestions were taken in 1999? I am almost positive I would not be using my iPhone to tweet about Facebook in China after a quick Google News search.
The FCC’s report is broad where the FTC’s staff discussion draft was controversially specific. The FCC report focused on an objective overview of modern media. Instead of trying to suggest policy that will most likely inhibit the rapidly-evolving, organic nature of modern media, the FCC suggests streamlining policy and promoting transparency in media online. Instead of a strident regulatory framework, the FCC’s policy suggestions favor a light regulatory touch.
The FCC’s approach seems both rational and highly intelligent considering the amazing information revolution that has taken place over the past few decades. It remains hard to say what will become the next Facebook, Google or Twitter and it is even harder to say why Prince wore this sparkling trench coat, but it easy to see we will continue to experience the lightening-fast progress of innovation in the digital age.