Thursday, June 08, 2006

Arguments for the Network Neutrality Act

Many of the liberal arguments for network neutrality seem to concern barrier to entry. A major site promoting network neutrality legislation is http://www.savetheinternet.org
Promoters are concerned that communications providers will provide preferential pricing and favored treatment to other large customers that pay them “ransom” for faster access. Examples are given concerning Google searches, iPods, political groups, nonprofits, and bloggers, who might face less favored treatment in posting their own audio or video, possibly motivated by existing media companies that would prefer less competition or erosion of their turf. It is not clear that this would really happen.

Craig Newmark, well known for his http://www.craigslist.org, appeared on CNN on Saturday June 10, 2006 and argued energetically for Network Neutrality. He says that, without this legislation, communications providers or ISPs will provide faster access to paying sites, and that this could gradually shut out "ordinary" sites (like this one) from effective access, because access to them would become much slower.

Robert Combs (the Christian Coalition) and Joan Blades (MoveOn.org) have an editorial "Joined at the Internet blip" in The Washington Times, June 16, 2006, p. A16. They express concern that ISPs will reduce access to content with disagreeable political views, and claim that this has already happened in Canada when an ISP shut down a site sympathetic to some of its workers in a labor dispute. Normally The Washington Times would favor non-inventionist policy, but in this case there is a concern that the speech of socially conservative groups could be affected without Net Neutrality.

The Washington Post published several letters to the editor, "Nothing Neutral about Net Access" on June 17, 2006. Joshua Engleheart in California argued that shared web hosting companies will be charged fees for prioritized bandwidth by cable and phone companies, and will pass this cost along to subscribers offering small (often non-profit) websites. Providers of video will no longer be able to afford to deliver their own work; much "self-publishing" of video and even written content could come to an end as a practical matter.

The testimony of Blair Levin, Managing Director of Stifel, Nicholaus & Company, before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 14, 2006 is interesting. Notice when he differentiates, under point 2, the business decisions made between hardware infrastructure developers and content/applications developers, the latter of whom need relatively free entry to make their investments. The link is
http://judiciary.senate.gov/testimony.cfm?id=1937&wit_id=5421

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