Saturday, November 7, 2009

A laughable argument against net neutrality

I don't generally stray into political topics, but some issues are too important and relevant to my future and the future of the internet. For example, I believe net neutrality is critical to protecting creative uses of the internet from the internet service providers' meddling. That's why I wrote a general summary of the net neutrality issue a couple weeks ago, and that's why I'm addressing some of net neutrality's critics today.

In the October 30 opinions section of the Wall Street Journal, I read an opinion against net neutrality that is too misguided for me to ignore. Republican senators Orrin Hatch and Jim DeMint wrote the piece, arguing that net neutrality policy will obstruct broadband investment and innovation by letting the government meddle in the affairs of the ISPs. That's simply not true.

I agree with the senators that over-regulation will prevent companies from innovating. The logic is obvious; if a company can't increase its profit by improving its services, it won't improve. However, the current regulation doesn't prevent ISPs from profiting from broadband investment. They are free to changes prices, set usage caps, and even offer higher internet speeds for higher prices. The only way in which the regulations limits ISPs network management options is by preventing them from discriminating against certain types of traffic.

I'm afraid that alarmist arguments like this one about net neutrality are obstructing important discussions on the effects of the regulations and the FCC's proper role in net neutrality enforcement.