I like your idea. Back in 1997 or so I speculated about the "information utility" that towns/cities could provide based on ATM. The town provides the basic data "pipe" and anyone who wants to sell you a service over that pipe can do so.
Perhaps local jurisdictions need to take the existing cable/optics infrastructure by eminent domain and use it for the benefit of the public. That court case from Connecticut where the Supreme Court held that private property (houses) could be taken by the city so that a developer could build more financially-remunerative structure on them seems to set the groundwork in place. What could be more of a benefit to the public than to have an information utility service, especially since Verizon effectively dismantled the highly-survivable communications infrastructure that they were originally entrusted with (well, ATT was entrusted with
I have Verizon as my telecommunications provider here in Maryland. I had DSL Internet and phone with Verizon until I met with Verizon's marketing engine following the big FIOS rollout. My Internet/phone bill combined was $75 prior to FIOS. Verizon convinced me to switch to FIOS Internet and phone with a 3-year agreement; my bill initially went down to $68/month, but would rise to $113 in the third year. I was assured that there would be "another deal" that would make the price lower as long as I committed to another term of service. A little over four years later, and Verizon is charging me $125/month for Internet and phone, insisting that this is the "best price" I can get. Color me a sucker.
I was recently upgraded "for free" to 15 Mbps up in addition to 15 Mbps down. This happened after I was heavily marketed to buy this not-so-valuable (to me) capability 2 months earlier. Funny thing - the same day that I received the glossy postcard from Verizon announcing the "free" upload speed upgrade, I received that month's bill from Verizon, complete with a $7 cost increase for FIOS Internet (which took my bill from $116 to $125). Just how stupid does Verizon think I am? The message is clear - I will buy whatever Verizon wants to sell me, and if I don't, I'll get anyway, and Verizon will increase the cost of my service.
The real kicker is the way that the cost is divided up. FIOS Internet service is $75/month; my phone is $30 (the balance of my bill is various fees and taxes that Verizon has broken out separately over the years to obfuscate their rate increases). Of the two (Internet and phone) I believe that I could do without Verizon's phone service much more easily than the Internet. I have a cell phone, and I can subscribe to a broadband VoIP service for about $3/month and operate it over my Internet service. I can't cut out Internet at this point and run it over my phone service. My job, my wife's job, my kid's school work, and access to a myriad of necessary on-line services (banking, investments, my grad school, Amazon for purchasing, etc.) all depend on my Internet service. Hardly anything depends on my phone. If that isn't a clear sign of a utility service, I don't know what is.
Its long past time for Internet service to be classified and regulated as a utility - the Verizons and Comcasts of the world have clear demonstrated how they will reap a fortune in fees from people who have to use their services left unregulated. With regulation will come other encumbrances, such as the ability for the FCC to enforce (or not) "Net Neutrality". So be it. The big communications providers have gobbled up all of the Internet access services and combined them under a very small number of companies, while at the same time the public's use of Internet for practically every aspect of work, school, and commerce as grown by leaps and bounds. Internet access is a utility. Let's declare it so.
Yes, I can explain why ISPs are different. They are simply the carrier, and should not be a policy enforcement point. Government is very interested in having ISPs be a policy enforcement point, because government can control big ISPs (sort of) much better than government can control a vast number of endpoints.
Most of the businesses you reference above (banks, fertilizer distributors, munitions retailers) are not common carriers. Haulage companies are a form of common carrier, but their responsibility with respect to the load that they are carrying is to make sure that it was legally handed off to them by what appears to be a reputable company. They are not engaged in examine the content of what they haul to determine if it violates government rules/laws.
The phone company provides a service (not a product) that is widely used for criminal activity as well, but we aren't proposing that the phone company is responsible for monitoring communications content to ensure that the communications activity isn't in violation of law.
ISPs should carry traffic. Period. Not serve as a handy proxy for the government, especially when the use of them as a proxy allows the government greater control/monitoring of the communications than the government is allowed in the first place.
The tradeoff is between a little more time, and a little more resources, against the benefit of keeping my communications private and unaltered by all of the middlemen through which my communications pass. That's a no-brainer for me.
In the days before the exposure of Verizon's (and others) schemes to actually interfere with the content of communications from their customers passing through their network (I'm talking about the physical modification of the communications content, and not just traffic management/prioritizing), I may have had a different opinion about the tradeoffs. But now that the "common carriers" have shown that they have no morals what so ever with respect to the content of traffic they are carrying through their networks, SSL encryption is simply a necessary function to prevent interference.
Today that interference may be limited to tracking user activity using an additional HTTP header that the user never knows exists. Who knows what packet re-writing magic might be used by the carriers in the future to completely "customize" each user's experience interacting with third parties to the benefit of the carrier?
I interpret Google's search results being regarded as speech as recognizing that Google can choose how to tell people what information Google has indexed on various web sites. In other words, when Google crawls the web, builds an index, then allows you to conduct searches against their index, they can return the results to you however they want to. If you don't like it, you can build your own web-crawling, indexing, and search engines and have at it.
As such, Google is just telling people what is out there on the web, not claiming that what is there is true or false. You could even view Google as helping folks if there is libel out there, because without Google it might be hard to for the injured party to even find the libel.
I didn't state my position well. I'm trying to make the claim that the API is nothing more than an interface, regardless of which side of the interface one implements. Unless there is something patentable in the structure or operation of the interface (because of invention), or copyrightable in the expression (because of some kind of original expression of ideas) the interface itself shouldn't be/can't be protected by law from use by someone else. In software the notion of "calling" a subroutine might be claimed to establish a difference between using the interface as the caller versus using it as the callee. In the case of a printer/ink cartridge (or toner) interface, which side is the caller and which is the callee may be a matter of opinion and ultimately irrelevant. I would argue that the printer actually calls upon the ink cartridge to supply the ink, rather than the ink cartridge calling upon the printer to do something with the ink, making the situation exactly analogous to software from a requestor/servicer point of view, yet copyright can't/hasn't been used to prevent ink cartridge third parties from "duplicating" that interface. The claim with respect to software APIs is, I believe, that duplicating the API on the callee side is a copyright violation where as duplicating it on the caller side is not (or else no one would be able to write software that used that API to call for a service) without violating copyright.
My argument is that since the API is nothing more than a minimal description of the interface, copyright can't be used to prevent duplication of the interface for software any more than it can be used to prevent duplication of the interface for an ink or toner cartridge. The fact that in the case of software the written description of the interface IS the interface is immaterial because it is just information alone, without a minimum of original creativity. A Supreme Court decision (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_v._Rural) established, for example, that a phone directory was not copyrightable because it didn't contain a minimum amount of original creativity. Even using the previous doctrine for copyright (sweat of the brow) I wouldn't think that an API was copyrightable, because there isn't likely to be significant time and energy invested in the API (assuming that the API isn't some brilliant creative piece of work).
It seems that if APIs can be placed under copyright, then all interfaces can be placed under copyright.
AT&T could have copyrighted the telephone interface and prevented people from buying non-AT&T phones to connect to the AT&T network. Laser printer manufacturers could stop coming up with DMCA-based attempts to wipe out toner cloners - just copyright the interface. Automobile manufacturers could wipe out the whole aftermarket parts market - just copyright the interface.
I don't think Robert Goddard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_H._Goddard was a Nazi.
I know that Robert Goddard's time came before the "Space Race". I just want to make the point that we Americans didn't just have our prize from WWII, Wernher von Braun to inform us about rocketry.
In the interests of full disclosure, I was born and raised in Massachusetts, which may explain my more immediate familiarity with Robert Goddard.