Contrarian Reading on Net Neutrality

‘net neturality has been much in the news recently; a while back I did a piece for Tech Target on some of the complexities here, and I ran across three other articles that provide a contrarian view—not what you are likely to hear from the major edge providers. Since I am always trying to understand both sides of an issue, I am always looking for solid, well written views on both sides. It is hard to dig behind the hype in our 140 character world, but it is also important.

Hence this post, with pointers to my older post and three other articles of interest. Warning: some of these are more trenchant and contrarian than others.

The primary foundation of net neutrality explained is this: Providers should not be able to give services they offer any advantage over a competing service running over their network. The perfect example might seem to be voice services. Suppose you purchase access to the internet from a company that not only sells internet access, but also voice services. Now, suppose the provider decides to sell its voice service as superior in quality to any other available voice service — and guarantee its service is better by degrading the handling of traffic to and from every other known over-the-top voice provider. For example, the access provider could choose to drop every 10th voice packet not sourced from, or destined to, one of its voice servers. —Russ White @ Tech Target (note this article is behind a registration wall)

Yet Mozilla (and many others) are building their case for net neutrality around the fear that other, bad corporations are going to impose “censorship” that is so much worse the benevolent speech patrols of the corporations they like. On Mozilla’s landing page, that’s the obsession of just about every anonymous quote from a “Concerned Internet Citizen.” —Robert Tracinski @ The Federalist

Over the next decade which companies do you think will be better able to exercise monopoly power? Amazon, T&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Regional phone companies, or Verizon? If you’d asked me this question in 2000, I would’ve picked AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and regional phone companies. They are part of local duopolies for wired infrastructure. They had a comfortable relationship with the FCC which regulated them nationally and with most of the state regulators. They saw the Internet as potentially disruptive and would’ve preferred to have its potential for innovation slowed by regulation. Amazon and Google (and most of the Internet community of the day) were against FCC regulation of the Internet exactly because that would chill innovation. —Tom Evslin @ CircleID

Ironically, the world’s leading winner-take-all Internet platforms — Google, Amazon, and Facebook — are the leading voices of the July 12th “Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.” They want to pressure the U.S. FCC to maximally regulate ISPs as Title II telephone utilities, even though they don’t believe in operating neutral networks themselves. Even more ironic, is this 1 min. Google-YouTube video — by the Internet Association, “the unified voice of the Internet economy.” It defines net neutrality and what it wants the FCC to ban ISPs from doing. However, those banned behaviors closely describe how Google, Facebook and Amazon often operate. Awkward. —Scott Cleland @ Somewhat Reasonable

Last week, activists proclaimed a “NetNeutrality Day”, trying to convince the FCC to regulate NetNeutrality. As a libertarian, I tweeted many reasons why NetNeutrality is stupid. NetNeutrality is exactly the sort of government regulation Libertarians hate most. Somebody tweeted the following challenge, which I thought I’d address here. —Robert Graham @ Errata Security