Craig of Craigslists spars Net Neutrality with telecom lobbyist on NPR

Summary:Had Scott Cleland, Chairman at Netcompetition.org (an outfit that is funded by the telecom industry), not forwarded me a link to his editorial on National Public Radio, I would have never heard it, and, quite frankly, would not have run for the Mylanta as quickly as I did.

Had Scott Cleland, Chairman at Netcompetition.org (an outfit that is funded by the telecom industry), not forwarded me a link to his editorial on National Public Radio, I would have never heard it, and, quite frankly, would not have run for the Mylanta as quickly as I did.  He was however kind enough to tell me that a rebuttal from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark would be broadcast today.  I listened to both and am providing a partial transcription in each case.  If you listen to these (and you should), I think you need to put them in the context of who is doing the talking.  On one hand, you have Cleland who is talking on behalf of an industry that's scrambling to figure out how to survive the disruptive technologies like VoIP that are ripping the rugs from under it.  On the other, you have an Internet entrepreneur who actually started, ran and built a business that has done a fair amount of disrupting. 

Yesterday, Cleland got to go first:

.....Net competition proponents like me believe the best way to guard a free and open internet is to maintain the free and open competition that exists today... .Not create a new government monitored socialized Internet... Did you know Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are lobbying for Net neutrality? If they're successful, they'll get a special low government set price for the bandwidth they use while everyone else -- consumers, businesses, and government -- will have to pay a competitive price for bandwidth.  It doesn't sound very neutral to me. Net neutrality would be a 180 degree reversal of the governments highly successful policy to promote competition and not regulate the internet.  .....Over time we would end up with a slower internet and higher broadband prices for taxes and consumers, less broadband choice, and slower broadband deployment to all americans and it would also mean less privacy for all American as net neutrality would require more government monitoring and surveillance of Internet traffic. ... the idea is rotten to the core....

Although I  transcribed well beyond the first line, Cleland completely lost me (actually, cue the nausea) when he said the best way to guard a free and open Internet was to maintain the free and open competition that exists today.  Free and open competition?  Where do they make stuff like this up? Last time I checked, you could not openly compete to drop a wire to my house.  A modicum of competition actually existed until an FCC decision denied companies like AOL and Earthlink the level-playing field (wholesale bandwidth) they needed to compete against the local duopoloy (the phone and cable companies).  I'm sorry, but two players a competition does not make.

But it gets worse (hon, can you run to CVS for another bottle of the white chalky stuff?). Then he says "If they're successful, they'll get a special low government set price for the bandwidth they use while everyone else -- consumers, businesses, and government -- will have to pay a competitive price for bandwidth."  It's about the most clever piece of wordsmithing I've ever seen.  The best fuzzy math I can come up with is that if one or two broadband ISPs that monopolize the last mile to your house don't get to charge Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (GYM) for every byte of traffic that flows across that last mile (to or from GYM), the fact that they generate more bytes than everybody else (by orders of magnitude) whose bytes flow across the same network means they're paying less per byte. In other words, everyone else is paying more.  This of course neglects to point out that GYM and others are already paying a traffic premium for their own last mile. Then he says the government is promoting competition.  Sorry, from my point of view, particularly with the FCCs recent decision, it's the other way around.  It's sanctioning monopolies.

Then today, Newmark got last licks:

.....Right now you can start a business on the net, you place a server somewhere, and you have an equal shot at serving customers well. However, execs at big telecoms, they want to create a system of privilege for people who can pay more. Here's an example, if we apply this idea to the phone system. Let's say you call Joe's Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. Would that be fair?  The telcom execs tell us they can be trusted to play fair and not extend privileges unfairly.  These guys forget that they get the use of public resources like airwaves and public rights of way. They've built their businesses on our resources and made a lot of money. The telecom and cable guys say don't worry, trust us. But have they earned that trust? Consider, why do the telecom companies block some hi-tech services on reaching our cell phones.....

Trust a T-Rex (predator) that's on the brink of extinction?

Disclosure: In the spirit of media transparency, I want to disclose that in addition to my day job at ZDNet, I'm also a co-organizer of Mashup Camp and Mashup University. Microsoft and Google, both of whom are mentioned in this story, are sponsors of one or both upcoming events. For more information on my involvement with these events, see the special disclosure page that I've prepared and published here on ZDNet.

Topics: Government

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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