I came across an article on Net Neutrality on the newly redesigned (nice!) CNN.com:
“Today I’m pleased to introduce the Internet Freedom Act of 2009 that will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation,” McCain said in a statement. “It will allow for continued innovation that will in turn create more high-paying jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work or seeking new employment. Keeping businesses free from oppressive regulations is the best stimulus for the current economy.” – John McCain
That’s a lovely statement. Now let’s see what this guardian of virtue is defending us from:
The FCC voted unanimously Thursday on a proposal that would start the process for creating regulation that will keep the Internet open. The proposal itself uses the FCC’s open Internet principles as a foundation and would forbid network operators from restricting access to lawful Internet content, applications, and services. It would also require network providers to allow customers to attach non-harmful devices to the network.
It seems counterintuitive that network operators, a small oligopolistic group of companies protected by massive barriers to entry resulting from extremely high fixed infrastructure costs, would need congressional help defending against the tyranny of their own users.
Left to their own devices, network operators would not hesitate to exert their power over the content they serve. This isn’t malicious – it makes business sense, but it unequivocally stifles innovation.
Network operators own the path between content creator and consumer. Without regulation, they are free to offer different tiers of access to that path to the highest bidder.
For example – let’s imagine that Google’s ability to pay dwarfs that of startupx, so that when Comcast rolls out a premium service at $10MM/year, Google walks away with the fastest, most reliable delivery network available. Even if startupx’s product makes Google look like Microsoft, without the ability to deliver their service with the same speed and reliability that Google offers, startupx doesn’t stand a chance. Innovation stifled.
I can appreciate caution in this situation. Taking regulation too far can be equally egregious, but given the history of the telecom industry, I would err on the side of regulation.
[FCC] Chairman Julius Genachowski…said that the commission is faced with a “dangerous combination of an uncertain legal framework with ongoing as well as emerging challenges to a free and open Internet.”
But he said the consequences of doing nothing are too great. And “fair and reasonable rules of the road” can’t wait.