Sunday, June 18, 2006

Where do I stand on Network Neutrality legislation?

This is one of those controversies where lobbyists throw slogans and simpleton paid ads at the public in an attempt to win their position for their constituents. My own view of this problem is evolving and developing, and I can see a lot of wrinkles and questions on both sides.

In general, I am skeptical of government regulation, because if is so easy for politicians to cause unintended consequences, imical to freedom, even if they have good intentions. I am far from convinced that all of the discriminatory behavior by large companies would really occur if the regulations (that apparently expired) were not re-instituted. From an engineering point of view, there seems to be no reason that it is necessary to slow down response when offering content from smaller providers. And there is no real objection to the develop of new hardware and infrastructure technologies that might benefit certain kinds of customers preferentially. For instance, in some of my own screenplay experiments I have pondered what Internet communications could be like between Earth and other bodies in the solar systm once we go there.

I do have a concern as a "newbie" that I could be quashed as an indirect result of efforts to control other abuses on the Internet by others (spam, various kinds of illegal content, protection of minors). I would not want a "dumb Internet" law to hinder technological solutions to these problems that would otherwise protect our continued freedom of self-expression on the Internet. For example, I would not want it to hinder microcharges for sent email. But the wording of both House and Senate versions would appear to allow for "smart technologies" instituted in good faith to solve security problems.

There is also a concern that an entity could be removed from the Internet because its content attracts hecklers -- poses a downstream or indirect risk to others because of "bullying." It sounds like it is possible that previous versions of Net Neutrality may have prevented this and that now we lack this protection. I am not sure if this is true, and would welcome comments.

Arguers against regulation emphasize opening large cable businesses up to competition to lower prices for consumers. A fair pricing policy might depend upon allowing content providers to pay for the bandwidth that they actually use in a less regulated fashion. The overriding concern of anti-regulation arguments, however, seems to be the welfare of the consumer; such arguments accept the idea that speakers need to make themselves financially or socially legitimate in other ways before they can easily and reliably reach large audiences with their content and ideas.

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