Professors David Farber and Michael Katz have an interesting piece in The Washington Post today. While it appears they are somewhat in favor of regulating, and in some cases charging for delivery of certain internet services (something I am generally against), they do make some good arguments as to why it might be a good idea.
Traffic management is a prime example. When traffic surges beyond the ability of the network to carry it, something is going to be delayed. When choosing what gets delayed, it makes sense to allow a network to favor traffic from, say, a patient’s heart monitor over traffic delivering a music download. It also makes sense to allow network operators to restrict traffic that is downright harmful, such as viruses, worms and spam.
Blocking premium pricing in the name of neutrality might have the unintended effect of blocking the premium services from which customers would benefit. No one would propose that the U.S. Postal Service be prohibited from offering Express Mail because a “fast lane” mail service is “undemocratic.” Yet some current proposals would do exactly this for Internet services.
I can certainly agree with their conclusion in that government law makers should hold off on passing any new legislation until we can better determine the effects it would have on the wild west of the internet.
The legislative proposals debated in the 109th Congress take a very different approach. They would impose far-reaching prohibitions affecting all broadband providers, regardless of whether they wielded monopoly power and without any analysis of whether the challenged practice actually harmed competition. If enacted, these proposals would threaten to restrict a wide range of innovative services without providing any compensating customer benefits.
Does this mean we believe that we should place all our trust in the market and the current providers? No. But it does mean we should wait until there is a problem before rushing to enact solutions.
If you are a new media content creator then I strongly urge you to read the whole thing, and learn as much as you can about net neutrality. Legislation will be passed one way or the other, and it will definitely affect you.
Where do you stand on net neutrality?
Others blogging: The Tech Beat from Business Week:
One oddity of the current fight is that many of the advocate of neutrality portray themselves as opponents of a corporate takeover of the democratic Internet. But the fight is being bankrolled by the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.com, big corporations if I’ve ever seen them. A lot of what;s going on is really a struggle for economic advantage between two groups of big companies, neither of which are much concerned about openess or democracy.
Hands Off the Internet:
Few people understand the Internet better than Carnegie Mellon Prof. and â€œGodfather of the Internetâ€ David Farber. And Michael Katz was Chief Economist at the FCC during the Clinton Administration.
So when these two team up to tell the world that Net neutrality regulations would hurt efforts to curb â€œviruses, worms, denial-of-service attacks and zombie computers,â€ prudent lawmakers ought to take notice.