View current page
...more recent posts
A fairly nuanced article from Cory Doctorow in support of "net neutrality" is here. He makes hash of the phone companies' beef that internet companies are getting to "use their pipes for free," but at the same time lists the difficulties in crafting neutrality legislation that doesn't stifle future innovation. Here's a good way of understanding what's at stake in the argument, and why you the consumer should care about the issue:
Why does network neutrality need protecting? Craigslist co-founder Craig Newmark addressed this point in an editorial he wrote for CNN.com: "Let's say you call Joe's Pizza, and the first thing you hear is a message saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. That's not fair, right? You called Joe's and want some Joe's pizza."Make no mistake, our phone and cable companies are spending millions and working Capitol Hill to take away some of the freedom you currently enjoy with the Internet. They hate it and want you to subscribe to their shitty programming the way you do with cable TV. On the other hand:
The most prominent voices for net neutrality have been calling for a regulatory solution. Regulation created this mess, so maybe regulation can solve it. Congress can pass a law directing the FCC to adopt rules to ensure neutrality.Read the rest, it's interesting, if complicated. I don't think we can just throw up our hands and say "the big companies will take care of this." Citizen involvement--Net user involvement--is going to be needed at every stage of the process.
It's a plausible answer, but the devil is in the details. If we're going to come up with regulations to keep the phone companies in line, we'll need to be sure they do the job. That means:
* The regulation should only catch companies when the free market and competition fail to protect customers. The long-distance fiber market, for example, has proven to be quite amenable to competition, as has the local ISP business. The rule has to be for the last mile, and only the last mile, whether delivered by wires or wireless.
* The rules should keep the phone companies in check without screwing the next generation of network services. Overlay carriers like FON, who provide last-mile connectivity by piggy-backing on the carriers' networks, should be free to play around with business models. This is about protecting us from monopolies in the last mile, not locking them in as the only last mile we'll ever get. We want to leash the Bells, not new innovators.