VoIP Pioneer Worried About Net Neutrality Reclassification -- But Without It, Broadband Providers Could Kill VoIP Startups
from the respectfully-disagree dept
This was the right decision at the time, and remains so today. Without regulating VoIP as as telco, it allowed some really great experiments and advancements, including more "phone replacement" services, to the fact that voice features are now built into lots of products today. Given that, I can understand why Pulver has come out vocally against efforts to reclassify broadband infrastructure players under Title II. As we've discussed, while we're wary of increasing regulations, in this case, we actually feel that Title II reclassification, with forbearance, is the proper result for the big broadband players.
Where I think the disconnect comes from is in the difference between the infrastructure providers -- building the core underlying pipes that make the internet work, almost always doing so with direct assistance from the government (rights of way, franchises, subsidies, tax rebates, pole rights, spectrum, etc.) -- and the services that are built on top of it. For example, without being able to stop broadband players from discrimination, those broadband players could, in fact, decide they want to block out VoIP players for taking away business from their own phone service. That's not a hypothetical. It's happened.
So I agree with Pulver that we don't want burdensome regulations on the services that exist on the internet. And I'll stand right beside him in arguments to extend any such regulations to those services. But, at this stage of the game, the big broadband players have become so powerful, and so anti-competitive with their terminating monopoly, that they have the ability to kill off all the kinds of cool and unique services that Puliver lauds in his article.
For anyone born after 1985, the idea of connecting with a relative on FaceTime, Skyping a friend traveling abroad or discussing a Halo mission with friends over a headset in real time is second nature.He's right about that, but he's underestimating the flip side problem: if the Comcasts, Verizons and AT&T's of the world are too powerful, we wouldn't have that either, because they'd make sure to degrade or block such services, driving users to their own services, or requiring innovative services like Pulver's to pay a toll just to reach their subscribers.
But it's equally true that these services might never have come to pass without significant efforts over a decade ago by many in the Internet community to keep government regulators at bay as they actively considered how to regulate one of the forerunners of these technologies -- a novel Internet-based communications service called Free World Dial-up (FWD).
We should certainly be careful about excessive government regulation, but just as equally we should be wary of monopolists with the power to block out innovation. Just because Title II is the wrong solution for most internet services, it does not automatically mean it's wrong for the underlying infrastructure.