Tim Berners-Lee On Net Neutrality: It's Important, But Now What?

from the where-the-conversation-breaks-down dept

teKuru writes in to point out Tim Berners-Lee's latest essay on the importance of net neutrality. It's a good read that talks up the importance of network neutrality, and how it has allowed innovation to flourish online. Very few people (perhaps other than telcos and their supporters) will doubt that. The real question, though, is the one that Berners-Lee punts on. He doesn't have a solution for how to deal with the question of telcos looking to end network neutrality. All he says is: "To actually design legislation which allows creative interconnections between different service providers, but ensures neutrality of the Net as a whole may be a difficult task. It is a very important one. The US should do it now, and, if it turns out to be the only way, be as draconian as to require financial isolation between IP providers and businesses in other layers." In other words, it's a tough issue and legislation could make it worse, but do it anyway? That doesn't seem much better than Senators saying that laws against file sharing networks may cause more problems than they solve, but they need to be done anyway.

This is a big issue that many people don't seem to want to dig in on. Those who are against net neutrality regulations say that the regulations will screw things up even more, but ignore the potential downsides to letting the telcos end net neutrality. Those who want regulation say network neutrality is very important and thus needs to be written into the law -- but ignore the potentially stifling aspects of bad regulations. The problem is that both sides then are talking about different things... and there's no one looking at if it's written into law, how can it be written to cause as little damage as possible and if it's not written into law, how can people feel comfortable that network neutrality will remain an option going forward? The real answer is that it would be great if there were a truly competitive market that would make it impossible for anyone to kill network neutrality, but the FCC has already killed that option off by giving telcos virtual monopolies on the lines and rights of way that the government granted them. So, perhaps the real answer isn't to focus on legislating (or not) net neutrality -- but making sure there's real competition in the market. In the meantime, it looks like the Markey amendment on Net Neutrality is back in play. However, as it's been turned into a partisan issue, it probably doesn't stand much of a chance.

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  1. identicon
    jeran, 8 May 2006 @ 7:32pm

    Re: scifi

    I don't think the technology you want is that far-fetched or that far in the future. Ten years ago most people I knew didn't have cell phones, let alone PDAs or high speed internet. Ten years from now, who knows what the standard data transfer rate will be? If the government is allowed to regulate the industry, you run the risk of stymying growth and slowing R&D in better technologies. The intention here is not to offer worse service to people who pay less, but better service to those who pay more.

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