July 18, 2006
Professional Reading: Felten's Nuts and Bolts of Network Neutrality
Princeton IT Prof Edward Felten has posted a 10-page paper called Nuts and Bolts of Network Neutrality. The paper is a primer on the technical details surrounding this issue with a short policy recommendation at the end. Professor Felten explains his motivation for writing this paper:
One of the reasons the network neutrality debate is so murky is that relatively few people understand the mechanics of network discrimination. In reasoning about net neutrality it helps to understand the technical motivations for discrimination, the various kinds of discrimination and how they would actually be put into practice, and what countermeasures would then be available to users and regulators.
Professor Felten, who is author of the very popular blog Freedom to Tinker, recommends the following:
There is a good policy argument in favor of doing nothing and letting the situation develop further. The present situation, with the network neutrality issue on the table in Washington but no rules yet adopted, is in many ways ideal. ISPs, knowing that discriminating now would make regulation seem more necessary, are on their best behavior; and with no rules yet adopted we don’t have to face the difficult issues of line-drawing and enforcement. Enacting strong regulation now would risk side-effects, and passing toothless regulation now would remove the threat of regulation. If it is possible to maintain the threat of regulation while leaving the issue unresolved, time will teach us more about what regulation, if any, is needed.
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The threat of legislation is always present as is the threat of action from the FCC, FTC and Department of Justice. Net neutrality regualtions aren't needed and would only burden the internet. Even Vince Cerf, Google VP realizes this point and recently commented;
"If the legislators ... insist on neutrality, we will be happy. If they do not put it in, we will be less happy but then we will have to wait and see whether or not there actually is any abuse,If we are not successful in our arguments ... then we will simply have to wait until something bad happens and then we will make known our case to the Department of Justice's anti-trust division,"
I work with the Hands Off the Internet Coalition in opposing net neutrality regualtions. We don't need preemptive regualtions to a hypothetical problem.
Posted by: Wilson | Jul 18, 2006 1:55:27 PM