Saturday, September 4, 2010

Net Neutrality Regulation

Terrific article in this Saturday's NY Times, and certainly worth the read. "Net neutrality, of course, is the principle that Internet service providers should not be allowed to favor some Internet content over other content by delivering it faster." And yet, as Joe Nocera describes it, "that this was a big mess?"

He presents a clear understanding of what is happening with net neutrality. Two points stick with me after reading it. One is that equal availability of content doesn't exist in cable, so why should it be equal in broadband. Your cable provider decides whether you can see a certain channel or not and prices it accordingly on a basic, tier or premium level of service. Think every home is capable of receiving a channel like Hallmark Movie Channel or Epix. The answer is no. But with competition, you can decide which provider you want for cable carriage. And perhaps part of that decision is predicated on a particular channel they carry.

The second point that is conveyed is that the consumer should have the ultimate power. "Consumers have come to expect an open Internet, and companies will violate net neutrality at their peril. That is just the way the Internet has evolved." Allowing a free market where businesses that offer broadband can decide how to offer it. Favor one content piece over another; why not. What is most important for the FCC is that their are low barriers to entry for providing broadband service. Encourage utility companies like electric and water to expand their offerings to also bring broadband into the home. Let telcos and other overbuilders ease of entry as well. Enable multiple companies through tax breaks to build the infrastructure to provide wire and wireless broadband everywhere. And then let free market decide how to proceed. One company signs a deal to give Hulu priority stream; another gives it to Netflix. The consumer ultimately decides which broadband service they prefer.

It seems an open market will solve the problem, not a heavily regulated one. Until then, Nocera is right, it is a big mess.