Saturday, September 16, 2006

Net Neutrality Revisited

Earlier in the summer we had a discussion about net neutrality. Senator DeMint emerges as a leader in the future of telecommunications and the Internet and A letter to Senator Jim DeMint

This week a friend on the faculty at USC sent me a link to an article in the Chronical of Higher Education (subscription required).

The article reports that,
A dozen higher-education groups sent a letter on Wednesday to two key U.S. senators, reiterating their support for the principle of network neutrality...

The college groups worry that collaborative online research and distance education will suffer if telecommunications companies that own broadband infrastructure degrade or slow down the transmission of Web content offered by higher-education institutions in favor of content from commercial Web operators.

"Net neutrality is extremely important for colleges and universities as we develop new ways to deliver multimedia instructional materials to students, including students off campus and in rural areas," the letter reads. "Universities have long been drivers of Internet innovation."
Aren't students off campus and in rural areas more likely to get the telecommunications infrastructure they need to consume the innovative multimedia instructional materials that will be developed if they pay the market rate for the infrastructure rather than subsidizing them and shifting the cost to other users?

7 comments:

Evan said...

I think we're looking at the internet all wrong here. The internet was built to be and, in a sense, is the collective nervous system of America -- maybe humanity.

I think we have to be more than just a little bit careful in how we tweak things.

If network neutrality is abolished, it's seems like the way things usually go -- give the product away at first -- build interest -- become indespensible -- charge whatever you want -- wait to be supplanted by something better / cheaper / faster.

Shay Houser said...

Net Neutrality, as defined by the RBOCs (AT&T), is almost a certainty. After working in the telecom industry for 15 years, one area that remains an RBOC stronghold is Washington, DC. They're ability to finance opinions has won time and time again. For example, Lindsey Graham, has voted on the side of the RBOC's throughout his tenure yet he has one of SC's largest CLEC competitors (and driver's of Greenville County employment) in Downtown Greenville.

Having said that, Google and many others continue to get a free ride on bilions of infrastructure costs that the RBOC's have deployed. This, like most other telecom fights, will come down to lobbying efforts. However, without some type of financial limitations placed on the people utilizing the majority of bandwidth, the net will not be neutral. I do believe changes must be made to ensure the RBOC's are compensated for the investments (toll bridge's) they have built built. However, like all RBOC's regulatory wishes, they'll ask for too much. If this goes overboard they might re-introduce competitive desires into their markets. I'm watching with a close eye.

Swamp Fox said...

Evan

Let's be egalitarian about the Internet. Let's insist that telecommunications infrastructure is a public good, and telecommunications companies have to let everyone use it equally - in other words let's have strict net neutrality. So the return on the infrastructure will be lower than it otherwise would be, so the capital investment in upgrading, or even maintaining, the infrastructure will be lower than it otherwise would be. So enhanced infrastructure won't be there as soon to support next generation web based services because we have constrained the return on investment to the telecommunications companies.

So the implementation of next generation web based services will be slower than it otherwise would have been had telecommunications been able to charge with the market would bear.

Is that what we want?

Evan said...

John-

I agree that if expediting the next generation of telecommunications technology and infrastructure is the highest goal then we should abolish net neutrality. I wasn't necessarily advocating net neutrality with my previous comment. I'm saying that we have to be really careful in how we adjust the internet. If it ain't broke...yadda yadda.

I've said it before but I think it bears repeating because it's such an apt analogy. We have pretty strict road neutrality right now. And all those things you listed are also true about roads and highways in America (and rails?). How has that technology and infrastructure radically improved in the past 50 years? Where's my hover car? Why am I still waiting in rush-hour traffic? Global warming? Heck, why aren't there more cars that get 50 mpg!? Maybe if the roadways weren't so free (neutral) for everyone we'd already have hover cars and traffic-free commutes. (Despite cost of the car, taxes, and insurance, the cost of driving a vehicle increases only with the price of gas -- you can still drive across the country for less than $250 in fuel. Driving, for most Americans, is a negligible cost when weighed against the gains in freedom.)

Then the road-neutral supporter asks, "Would our country be as successful today if we had historically enacted more restrictive road policies?" I don't know. Drawing the road system analogy onto the internet gets into a lot of freedom of speech and rights arguments. "Is your voice worth more than mine?" Et cetera.

There are two things I'm fairly positive of on this issue. (1) Congress should stay the heck out of it. (2) If you're against net neutrality, you should focus that thought and energy onto transportation instead of the internet. I think there's more money to be made/saved on the roads, and it's of greater strategic national importance than fudging with the internet.

// end ramble

Anonymous said...

The internet is a utility just like the telephone or electricity. Utility providers should not be content providers and vice-versa. Regulate the utility fairly for all, and allow the commercialization of content.

Innovation is dependent upon independent thinking. Independent thinking is dependent upon freedom. Freedom is dependent upon unregulated and open communications. Net neutrality is American.

Senator DeMint - your website will take too long to load if net neutrality goes away.

Swamp Fox said...

Anonymous

You said, "The internet is a utility... regulate the utility."

Then you said, "Freedom is dependent upon unregulated and open communications."

Which is it? Regulated or unregulated communications?

Do you believe in freedom for yourself, but not for the people willing to invest their capital in the Internet's infrastructure. Sometimes freedom's good, and other times it's not?

Anonymous said...

Different Anonymous here,

A reasonable read on the subject:
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/13/atkinsonweiser.htm