Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Network Neutrality Made Simple

Much of the debate around Network Neutrality has tended to obfuscate what is essential to regulate with what is controversial, so I'd like to spell it out simply.

(1) Wireless airwaves and landline right of ways belong to the public.

(2) Government has granted a small number of business organizations a license or charter to provide voice and data communication services to the public based on these public resources.

(3) Building and operating the nations communication networks gives these organizations certain powers which the public has an interest in regulating. The charter granted to these business organizations to provide voice and data communication services to the public prohibits any attempt to give themselves or anyone else an unfair competitive advantage over any other lawful communication service that runs on top of these network facilities. The public's interest in an open Internet that supports efficient innovation requires this.

Point 3 is the crux of Network Neutrality. Certain carriers have tried to obfuscate the issue by saying they need the ability to offer premium services and manage the network which Network Neutrality would somehow prohibit. I respectfully disagree. The issue is whether Internet data carriers can grant themselves an unfair competitive advantage by virtue of controlling the pipes. The answer that best serves the public interest is "no".

For example, Network Neutrality says that Comcast may not restrict access to Netflix or charge a premium for such access so as to make their own video on demand services more competitive. They can manage the bandwidth available for streaming, but they must not discriminate based on the content itself or who provides it. The user decides what services they choose to access.

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