I have had several readers email me asking my opinion on net neutrality, at least as embodied in the regulations passing through Congress. I really haven't gotten worked up about it one way or the other, but here is where I am on it:
- It seems to be solving a "problem" that doesn't exist, but is mostly hypothetical. So the current benefit of the law is zero. Which makes the law at best currently useless, and at worst a negative given inevitable unintended consequences. It seems crafted out of general distrust of phone and cable companies than for any other reason. Couldn't we at least have waited not just until some company was giving preferential access to certain sites, but until there was some demonstrable harm from the practice?
- I dislike the precedent of the government increasing its regulation of the Internet. I know folks want to argue to me that this law is just to "keep the Internet like it has always been" but that is the justification of half the regulations on the books -- locking the the status quo against new business models, technologies, and competitors
- I can imagine situations where net neutrality might be bad. I think in particular with fledgling wireless networks, that might want to put certain limits on high-bandwidth sites to try to reduce the load on their key nodes.
- I know it is not a direct analog, but net neutrality smacks a bit of the awful "must carry" rules applied to cable and satellite. These must-carry rules were crafted to force people like cable to carry every local TV station, worthy or not, on their cable and to force satellite providers to only bring the network feed to a city via its city's local affiliate. Another government incumbent protection act, it basically said that incumbent terrestrial broadcasters got first call on cable bandwidth ahead of new entrants. The sattelite rule has always irritated me - it means that to provide NBC to 60 cities, DirecTV has to carry 60 nearly identical feeds in its limited satellite bandwidth instead of just one, all to protect technologically dated but politically influential local TV businesses.
- Ironically, the same "progressives" pushing net neutrality also pushed, just 6 months ago, legislation to require cable TV to provide content a la carte rather than just one price for everything bundled. Aren't these two initiatives effectively opposite of one another? And why is either the government's business?