Network Neutrality Debate Update

[SOURCE: Seattle Times, AUTHOR: Editorial Staff]
[Comentary] If computer-network providers are allowed to hijack the Internet, the damage will go much deeper than the consumers' wallets. Democracy will be at risk with the inevitable limiting of voices if Internet neutrality is not ensured. The effect of allowing a few companies to toll traffic across the pipes through which Web content flows would be chilling, and primed for abuse. Not only could the network keepers decide what and whom to charge, the companies could use this power as a tool to promote their services before a competitor. How will telephone companies that provide DSL respond to new Internet accessories like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the telephone service provided across the Internet? The biggest loser in a gated cyber world would be American democracy. Democracy is already suffering from the effects of consolidation, especially in the media where only a handful of companies either own outright or own interests in films, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, book publishing, and any other media channel that can be devoured. Congress should think of that before funneling more power into the hands of a few.

[SOURCE: Prof Lawrence Lessig]
[Commentary] in a fundamental sense, fair use (FU) and network neutrality (NN) are the same thing. They are both state enforced limits on the property rights of others. In both cases, the limits are slight -- the vast range of uses granted a copyright holder are only slightly restricted by FU; the vast range of uses allowed a network owner are only slightly restricted by NN. And in both cases, the line defining the limits is uncertain. But in both cases, those who support each say that the limits imposed on the property right are necessary for some important social end (admittedly, different in each case), and that the costs of enforcing those limits are outweighed by the benefits of protecting that social end. So from this perspective, it is easy to understand those who reject FU and NN. And it is easy to understand those who embrace FU and NN. What gets difficult is understanding those who embrace one while rejecting the other -- at least when that rejection is articulated in terms of “government regulation.” For there is a consistency problem for those who embrace FU while arguing against “government regulation to support NN.” For FU and NN are both “government regulations” -- each government defined limits on government granted property rights. In both cases, a government official (a court, or the FCC) is telling a property owner “this use of your property is opposed by the state.” And while there are important differences in the way FU and NN get administered, if anything, FU is more vague, more complex, more expensive, and more uncertain than the regulations being called for under NN.

[SOURCE: TVWeek, AUTHOR: Editorial Staff]
[Commentary] Television companies are putting more programs online. Viral video Web sites are all the rage. It's clear the Internet is joining TV stations, cable systems and satellite providers as an important distribution channel for entertainment. Congress should ensure the Web remains an even playing field by preventing Internet access providers from offering some content providers better connections than others. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association calls the network neutrality legislation "a solution in search of a problem." That's one way to look at it. Another is that the measure would prevent Web access companies that are (legitimately) in search of higher profits from starting down a harmful path. Congress should act to keep those with more money from having a leg up on the Internet.
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[SOURCE: The Daily News (Jacksonville, NC), AUTHOR: Editorial Staff]
[Commentary] As soon as a marketplace relatively free of heavy-handed regulation develops a resource that shows value for a wide variety of consumers, you can be sure some interest group will arise to lock the current situation into place by law.A current example is the promotion of bills in Congress that would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to enforce the rather vaguely understood concept of “net neutrality” on Internet service providers. Network neutrality is not a technological or network-architectural term or a model arising from the structure of the Internet itself. Instead it is a legal and political term for the belief that the Internet should be governed as the old monopoly utilities were, with the “pipes” to the Internet viewed as “common carriers,” open to all on terms decided by a government regulatory agency. Ultimately, it means government price controls. Before succumbing to the idea that government regulation will ensure fairness or neutrality, it should be helpful to remember that the Internet has developed under a very light regulatory regime. With entrepreneurs large and small free to try things (many of which fail) the number of users, speed of connections and variety of products, services and information available through the Internet has increased fantastically. The Internet has achieved widespread adoption faster than any comparable technology, especially than technologies tightly regulated by government. Enforcing net neutrality through FCC regulation is likely to make future innovation slower. Prices for Internet services should be determined through the changing interplay of supply and demand rather than with the blunderbuss of regulation.

[SOURCE: Light Reading press release]
Incumbent network operators hoping to boost revenues by charging premium fees for delivery of some broadband content are likely to realize modest gains if current rules that guarantee so-called "network neutrality" are eliminated, according to a new report from Light Reading Insider (, a paid research service of Light Reading Inc. ( "At first glance, charges for the delivery of Internet content look as though they could provide an additional $10.7 billion in carrier revenues by 2010," notes Simon Sherrington, research analyst for Light Reading Insider and author of the report. But a variety of factors ­ including potential customer churn, competitive pressures from operators that maintain net-neutrality policies, and the ongoing threat of re-regulation ­ would likely diminish those revenue gains, Sherrington says. "If operators could persuade companies representing 20 percent of the consumer content market to pay a premium for improved content delivery, they could open a market worth around $309 million in the U.S. by 2010," he says. "Accessing 20 percent of the business information and ecommerce markets could deliver a further $1.8 billion by 2010." Other key findings of the report include: 1) In practice, the widespread imposition of content delivery charges looks highly unlikely. 2) Operators using selective charging mechanisms to prevent competitors from undercutting them or to prevent revenue losses are likely to face close scrutiny from regulators. The End of Net Neutrality: An Economic Analysis offers an assessment of the revenue opportunity that would be available to network operators if regulators set aside requirements that prohibit those operators from charging fees for different tiers of Internet connectivity service. It analyzes how operators might charge for preferential content delivery and quantifies the additional revenue they might generate. It also considers the potential reactions of competitors, content providers, and access customers to such a move and draws conclusions about the commercial appeal of the strategy for broadband access network operators.

[SOURCE: Multichannel News, AUTHOR: Ted Hearn]
In Washingtonian physics, for every action, there's an unequal and irrational reaction. So since presidential hopeful Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) co-sponsored a bill on Net Neutrality last week, someone must make hay out of it. On Monday, the American Conservative Union sent an e-mail alert to members denouncing Sen Clinton’s political alliance with various pro-net-neutrality groups as a concerted effort by government to seize control of the Internet: "While Hillary, and their liberal allies call this legislation ‘net neutrality,’ it is nothing less than a government takeover of the Internet. If they succeed, this legislation would allow government to control Internet content and prices."