Thursday, May 18, 2006

Net Neutrality Op-Ed

Opinion Journal is generally a fairly informative place for opinion. Today on the other hand, they came out with this piece on Network Neutrality and how the left is whining about it. The problem is, they completely and utterly fail to discuss Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Efficiency Act of 2006 ( COPE - Barton-Rush Act). We previously discussed this issue here.

This particularly bothers me, because this is a discussion with no context.
It's worth putting this zealotry in a broader historical context. In the decade or so since the commercialization of the Internet began in earnest, the number of users, the speed of their connections and the variety of things they can do on the Net have all rushed forward. Blissfully, but not coincidentally, all this has been accomplished with a light regulatory touch. Excepting pornography and gambling, no bureaucrats have decided what services could be provided over the Internet, or who could offer them or how they could charge for them.

The result has been rich and diverse. Web surfers can make phone calls--sometimes free, sometimes for a fee. They can legally listen to music, either free, by subscription or by paying per song. They can watch some network television shows online--again, some are free and supported by ads; others charge per program.

Some of the service ideas have been bad, and failed. Some are wonderful. But many would never have been tried if the Federal Communications Commission had been able to tell businesses whom they could charge, how much or how little, or what they could or couldn't sell on the Net. Freedom, in other words, has been the Web surfer's friend.

Enter Net neutrality, which has so far found its only official expression in a nonbinding policy statement issued by the FCC last year. The FCC statement says, "consumers are entitled" (our emphasis) to the "content," "applications" and "devices" of their choice on the Internet. They are also "entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers."

Take a moment to pause over this expansive list of "entitlements." If we take the FCC at its word, access to online pornography is now a right, even though in a different context the FCC is increasingly preoccupied with policing "decency" standards on television. We'd have thought FCC Chairman Kevin Martin would find all that entitlement talk a little embarrassing, given his campaign for decency standards.

No mention of COPE anywhere. I'd also argue that their contention that this is about entitlements is just foolish. In fact, for the most part it's about not buggering up a system that already works by giving the big core providers another means to charge even larger fees for preferential treatment. Well, preferential treatment for traffic within your service providers scope of influence. Once it gets into the realm of another service provider, all bets are off.

I'd say that this Op-Ed fulfills the description of Zealotry far more than most of the "lefts" crusade for Network Neutrality.

No comments: