I’ve been blogging in circles around the whole “net neutrality” issue recently, generally sympathetic to the concept that the internet should remain an egalitarian mode of communication in which all types — or packets — of information are treated equally. However, I’ve been reticent to declare one of the six bills pending in the House of Representatives dealing with this issue my favorite because I don’t feel that I’m an expert on all the underlying technical and business issues that underlie this debate.
So, that’s why I responded to this article by Michael Grebb in Wired. It’s by no means the last word on the subject, but I do think he (re)frames the conversation in an interesting way.
From the piece:
Arguments over net regulations are nothing new. But they have taken on fresh urgency as the industry absorbs a wave of megamergers and the internet rapidly evolves into a high-bandwidth pipe capable of replicating — and perhaps even replacing — both traditional telephone and cable TV services.
A dwindling list of corporate giants that control the pipes into consumers’ homes are jumping into the video and internet phone businesses, creating an unprecedented threat to online competition, consumer advocates say. In a worst-case scenario, some speculate, a carrier like AT&T might launch its own internet video service and then conspire to hurt the performance of competitors, such as Google, Amazon.com and YouTube, at least where its own customers are concerned.
“They have been talking vocally about these new business models they’re going to try out once they get these mergers done,” says Alfred Mamlet, a telecom and intellectual-property lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson. “That’s what’s got the Googles and Yahoos concerned.”
…The debate appears to have polarized into extreme positions. But a hard look at the current situation seems to show that both sides have a point, and the best long-range solution may well be a compromise. Giving the cable firms and telephone companies free rein to do exactly as they wish is almost certainly a mistake. But micromanaging their businesses by forcing them to treat everybody exactly the same would also be a blunder.