The Paper On Network Neutrality That Any Policy Maker Needs To Read
from the read-it-now dept
As regular Techdirt readers are surely aware, Tim Lee has been writing a series of posts here about issues having to do with network neutrality. The five part series, was based on research he was doing for a position paper for the Cato Institute on network neutrality. If you haven’t read the series of posts, you can find them here:
- Censoring The ‘Net Is Hard
- Ownership Doesn’t Always Mean Control
- Changing The Internet’s Architecture Isn’t So Easy
- Revolving Door Undermines FCC’s Watchdog Role
- A History Lesson For Those Advocating Network Neutrality Laws
Whether or not you’ve read those posts, you should absolutely read the finished product, which has now been released by Cato. While the document is long, it should be required reading for anyone interested in the issues surrounding network neutrality. It’s well-researched, well-written and quite thought-provoking — challenging many of the claims made by supporters of “both sides” of the debate, highlighting the fact that reducing network neutrality to “two sides” has always been a mistake.
Specifically, Lee, rips apart the arguments made by those who believe that various service providers need to violate network neutrality “end-to-end” principles, pointing out how it’s based on faulty logic. He also dismantles faulty arguments from those who claim that the internet is not or never was “neutral.” He also details why the concept of neutrality has been quite important to the growth and success of the internet, and he cites much of the innovation that came about because of it.
However, rather than supporting the efforts of “network neutrality supporters” (which is common in the tech world), he points out why we probably do not need regulations to enforce network neutrality — highlighting non-regulatory methods that have, and will continue to, keep network providers honest. Yes, there may be encroachments at the margins — but, for the most part they turn out to be unsustainable both due to the backlash of users and the fact that they often end up making very little business sense.
Finally, he points out the risks of unintended consequences from any network neutrality legislation, pointing to similar situations in the past in other industries, that resulted in “regulatory capture,” where the industries being regulated were able to abuse the regulatory process to their own benefit. He also takes a look at the most likely proposed legislation, highlighting just a few of the more obvious problems that would crop up if it were turned into law.
Anyone who is making policy or supporting a particular policy around network neutrality is doing themselves a tremendous disservice if they do not take the time to read this paper. Whether you’re advocating for network neutrality laws, or claiming that service providers have to violate network neutrality to stay alive, you need to take the time to read this paper, and either come up with the evidence to refute Tim’s points, or perhaps recognize that the way this issue has been painted in the press does not give the complete picture.