Will the Internet remain neutral?

Our own Stefanie Olsen emphasized how Comcast, which is already throttling BitTorrent, stiffed the agency, but I think that misses the point. More important was the parade of interest groups at the meeting, each with their own agenda.

Jimmy Durante poster from AllPosters
Probably not.

What Net Neutrality advocates forget is what has kept the Internet neutral so far has been market discipline, not government.

Most customers want neutrality, and will "vote with their feet" against those carriers who violate it. Assuming, that is, they have a choice.

There are exceptions. A decade ago I did a story about a "Christian ISP" who was making big bucks censoring his customers' Net access to keep out pornography. Churches, individuals, and businesses were all avid buyers.

The real problem is that, increasingly, choice does not exist. You can get your access from the local cable operator or the local phone company. Other ISPs, which were re-sellers of this bandwidth, have been effectively driven from the market.

Force the incumbent owners of infrastructure to re-sell their bits at a fair price and yesterday's hearing becomes unnecessary. The alternative was on display at Stanford.

Our own Stefanie Olsen emphasized how Comcast, which is already throttling BitTorrent, stiffed the agency, but I think that misses the point.

More important was the parade of interest groups at the meeting, each with their own agenda.

Engineers like our former colleague George Ou, talked about video demands "causing a new collapse." For small ISPs, especially Wireless ISPs, these problems are real.

Copyright owners demanded that if regulation is to happen, stopping "illegal file-sharing" must be part of it. By illegal they mean any copyrighted file, which could mean just about any file.

And while Roberta Combs of the Christian Coalition was quick to condemn Comcast's blocking of a P2P transmission of the Bible, she might feel differently if the file were from the vaults of John Stagliano

That's what happens when government starts saying "thou shalt not." As the late Jimmy Durante said, "Everybody wants to get into the act." (You can still hang Jimmy on your wall for as little as $5.99 from Allposters.)