Should the government regulate Net neutrality?

    by Mark Glaser
    March 31, 2006

    More and more people are using broadband connections, and with those broadband connections come more video, more audio — more, more, MORE of everything that can potentially slow up the pipes. The broadband providers are saying their capacity can’t handle the booming traffic, and that they need to start finding a way to finance infrastructure improvements. One idea floated by AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre is to start charging sites such as Google, Yahoo or Vonage an extra fee for their sites to load faster. Eventually, that comment led to a furor with many interest groups and e-commerce sites demanding that Congress enshrine in law “Net neutrality” that would guarantee that Internet service providers treat all Net traffic equally.

    What do you think? Should Congress step in to do something? What kind of law makes sense? Or do the telecoms and cable companies deserve the freedom to charge what they want, as they were the ones who built these pipes? You can read more about this subject in a deep story on News.com, an editorial against Net neutrality in Techweb, and a defense of Net neutrality in a Christian Science Monitor editorial. I’ll use the best answers here in the Your Take roundup next week.

    • Normally I’m against government regulating the Web, but I think we may need them to this time. The problem is I really don’t trust them to do what’s right in the end. I think who ever pays them the most will win.

      While I almost buy the argument from the ISPs, it still seems like a terrible idea. It will stifle innovation, because unless you are already a big player with money — your site will never be as fast as Google or someone already paying.

      Isn’t it kind of like payolla?

    • Hairy

      I would not mind paying a small, small fee for video clips on broadband, and here is why: so much that is currently out is (to me) simply frivolous. So, when I see something that may be of interest (to me), I would pay for it; but, only if that is what it would take to keep the ‘fat pipes’ open.

    • oldhats

      I feel like consumers are already protected by a free market and by current FCC regulations…and I dislike the idea of inviting Congress in to regulate the internet, especially because it’s the lack of governmental control/ regulation that has made the internet so innovative.

    • Lessgov

      I find it interesting that Google and the rest are among those fighting legislation, while simultaneously making the case the only the big companies will benefit from tiered service. The last thing we need is for government to step into this issue and represent, well, whatever interest elects to pay them.

      The free market has been able to sort out petty squabbles between giant corporations in the past, and it will do so again without governmental involvement.

    • The issue isn’t about consumers paying more — it’s about ISPs deciding which sites you see the most easily. That’s why I really don’t like this legislation.

      If it were an issue of consumers paying for more for certain sites that’s free market choice, but that’s not what’s being considered.

    • Paulaner01

      But if an ISP interfered with my surfing, or downloading, or file sharing, wouldn’t I just find a new ISP? We’re talking about purely hypothetical situations that, if they occur, are already under FCC jurisdiction AND would lead to a mass exodus of customers from one ISP to another.

    • pkp646

      If you look at this issue from the simple perspective of property rights, I don’t see how anyone could argue for net neutrality. The owners of the pipes should decide how to charge people to use them. If it is in their interest to spend more to develop a greater infrastructure, then I think it is clear that they should be allowed to charge more for content providers to use it. End of story.

    • sagecast

      Readers of this comment thread should know that Paulaner01, lessgov and pkp646 look to be part of a tag-team of industry shills who invade blog comments on net neutrality to argue against any government regulation of the Internet. Other names who run with this crowd are John Rice, AJ Carey and oldhats. (Google any of these names in combination and you’ll see how their game works).

      By tag-teaming the blogs this small handful of individuals gives the false impression of broad popular support for an industry-friendly position.

      What they fail to point out is that Net Neutrality has been the rule that has governed access to the Internet since its inception. It’s the reason that the Internet has become such a dynamic force for new ideas, economic innovation and free speech. What they really want is for Congress to radically re-write our telecommunications laws so that companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth can swoop in and become gatekeepers to Internet content — in a way that benefits no one except the largest ISPs.

      I’d like these people to tell us how it is that they appear together (usually one after the other) spouting identical industry talking points across the blogosphere.

      What gives fellas? Are you being paid? And by whom?

    • Marc

      I really don’t see why anyone in their right mind would ever agree with the government regulating the web. The government already has enough control over our lives why can’t they just stay out of this. Also i am proud that companies like Google are fighting legislation.

    • Mark

      Where does the government get the right to regulate the internet? Just because you think they should doesn’t make it right, that simply proves you need to further develop your understanding of the US Constitution and what it’s purpose is.

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