by Carlo Longino

Net Neutrality Debate Again Descends Into Shouting, Farce

from the par-for-the-course dept

Net neutrality is a complex issue, but as tends to happen with most things these days, it gets boiled down into easily consumable, though not wholly accurate, ideological soundbites from both sides. And even when people try to have an open, even-keeled discourse about the issue, they still run into problems explaining things well. For the most part, debate on net neutrality has glossed over the fundamental, but perhaps less incendiary issues, and been characterized by intellectual dishonesty and propagandizing from activist groups on both sides. It was hardly surprising, then, to read about a panel at the Supernova conference descending into a shouting match between a Commerce Department official (ie the "anti-regulation" guy) and "pro-net neutrality" supporters in the audience. Really, it's an apt characterization of the whole debate: a bunch of yelling, very little exchange of useful information, and nobody really moves from their previously established ideology. All this means is that, in the end, it's very unlikely for the right, or even a good, solution to emerge. Instead, it will just come down to whichever side can muster the most political clout -- which is pretty much how things have gone in telecom regulation anyway.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Tera, Jun 22nd, 2007 @ 8:42pm

    To many people = All the problems in the world. We need another WW to clear the masses!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Charles, Jun 22nd, 2007 @ 9:45pm


    I just hope THAT was a joke....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Troop, Jun 22nd, 2007 @ 10:17pm

    Need more discussion here IF...

    We The People Think.
    We do think, but it's up to the people to decide on a consensus. Post up at WeThePeopleThink.com for more on the subject.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Stu, Jun 23rd, 2007 @ 8:29am

    "political clout -- which is pretty much how things have gone in telecom regulation anyway."

    The problem is that political clout has become a function of money, rather than votes. It's much too difficult to replace an incumbent elected politician - also a function of money. Just listen to the news reporting about elections - it's all about the money.

    Out goes legislation for the common good - in comes legislation for big money interests.

    "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power."
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    PopeRatzo, Jun 23rd, 2007 @ 9:33am


    They can have my internet when they wrest it from my cold, dead hands.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Joe Smith, Jun 23rd, 2007 @ 12:36pm

    Common carrier

    It seems to me that this whole question started when the carriers said that they wanted to discriminate against Web sites in the basis of the profitability of the Website and so they wanted to be able to charge Google more for a packet than they might charge "Charlie's Online Flea Market" for an equivalent packet. That it seems to me is the basic question.

    The bandwidth providers are local monopolies or duopolies and should be treated as common carriers - that is, they should be forced to set a transparent, fixed, pricing formula available to all which does not discriminate. If guaranteed low latency is part of the formula then so be it. Average power, peak power and power guarantees are all accepted elements in pricing for electricity and can be a basis for charging for bandwidth.

    Google, eBay and Amazon appear to be the real targets of the carriers but those businesses do not have a high bandwidth to commercial value ratio, or a critical need for low latency, compared to, say, YouTube, Second Life, World of WarCraft or music sharing. The other possibility is that the real agenda of the telecoms is to discriminate against VOIP to the extent that VOIP is destroyed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    ac, Jun 23rd, 2007 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Common carrier

    I think this is a smoke screen. The high traffic sites already pay more and traffic shaping is already in regular use. The reason for all the rhetoric, IMHO, is because VOIP was the real threat to those who've held the legislative rein$ for so long. They're perfectly happy with shouting matches about Google (probably the lightest weight per hit site on the Net) because they don't want anyone to notice while they grind your cheap IP voice service to a halt. Like the mafiAA, they're protecting a dying business model (POTS).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Bob Frankston (profile), Jun 23rd, 2007 @ 3:04pm

    It's about antitrust not NN

    The issue of Neutrality is a symptom of the problem but not the problem itself. The problem is that we have a chimera called Telecom.

    Easier to point to writings including First Square Mile and FTC Broadband Competition NOT. The basic problem is that telecom isn't a marketplace so you can't expect the marketplace to solve it but neither should we repeat the imposed solutions as in 1934.

    Once we recognize that there is not really a telecom industry -- just transports controlled by privileged service provides the solution is obvious -- don't do that. The transport is like roads (but without the physical encumbrances) and it is not a profit center -- it's infrastructure. We must not give it all to privileged service providers who are allowed to take what they can in return for giving us a trivial amount of “free” “Internet” while preventing us from creating our own solutions. Assuring Scarcity demonstrates that they industry knows that they are acting to restrain trade and they do it because they would not exist if we had a real marketplace.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2007 @ 9:31pm


    My opinion: The real problem is the lack of free market in internet service provision and access to utility right of way (ROW) easements. I think that a truly free market would which would provide network neutrality naturally is what should really be implemented, BUT unless that happens regulation is needed as a second choice to prevent abuse. I doubt that the US will ever get such a free market for several reasons not the least of which is the fact that if it were to happen the current incumbent providers likely couldn't compete and would die off. Given a choice between a free market and regulation AT&T would readily choose the latter as they couldn't survive the former. The problem now is that AT&T and the like want to have their cake and eat it too in that they want to be a government protected monopoly and be free of regulation at the same time. If they don't want regulation then they need to give up their protection FIRST.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    liz, Jun 23rd, 2007 @ 10:29pm

    More than just big monopolies...

    I think that most of us are aware that money is what moves this world, especially governments. Net neutrality would do a lot more damage than just wreck VOIP. Though I do believe that's a big part of it, as there's already competition from cable as well. But net neutrality would wreak havoc on people (like health care providers) that live out in the middle of nowhere (like out in the middle of Alaska) that depend heavily on the internet to get things like x-rays, etc. It would make it too expensive for them. And as it becomes more and more expensive for the common man to start a small business the internet has become very important and net neutrality would begin to make it too expensive as well for the regular person to start a business. Net neutrality would also make it so much easier to start censoring us. I just see a lot more negatives than positives. At least in the research I've done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Joe Smith, Jun 24th, 2007 @ 9:12am

    Re: More than just big monopolies...

    Say Liz, which big lobbying firm are you working for?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: More than just big monopolies...

    So bacause Liz actually has an opinion she must be from a lobby group? While it is possible that she has ulterior motives it would seem by her observations that the little guy would be left hanging if net neutrality were implemented.

    What if Embarq decided that WebMD was not paying them enough?

    Roadrunner concluded that suddenly decides that instead dealing with the possibility of being held liable for youtube uploads they just block it altogether?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re: More than just big monopolies...

    your fighting on the wrong side. She said that implementing network NUTRALITY would be bad for the small guy. Your arguing that Not having neutrality would hurt the small guy. One of the many points of having neutrality is so that Embarq can't block WebMD and Roadrunner can't block YouTube.

    Neutrality will help the little guy because then Microsoft can't pay $200,000 to roadrunner to get their website priority while degrading the connection to JoeSchmo.com (Not intentional by Microsoft but a likely outcome none the less.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    TechieZero, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 7:07am

    Free Lunch

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. I don't work for free, why are ppl asking that the internet be offered for free as well (paid eventually by tax dollars)? Leave government out of the 'net and let the markets decide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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