Cisco’s Bob Pepper on Net Neutrality

by on March 22, 2007 · 10 comments

Robert PepperBob Pepper, the senior managing director of global advanced technology policy at Cisco Systems, has penned an outstanding editorial on Net neutrality regulation in TechNewsWorld.com. When Bob served as the FCC’s chief of policy development he was, in my opinion, the most brilliant and thoughtful regulator I ever had the chance to work with in my life. He had an appreciation of the benefits of markets that is still on display in this excellent editorial:

Looking ahead, Internet users and content/applications providers will continue to require more choice and flexibility in terms of service selection, service quality and price points. In contrast, new net neutrality regulation could have the perverse effect of degrading all levels of service or freezing in place the current state of providers and services. Companies would find it more difficult to differentiate themselves, offer new services, and enter new markets, a situation that would be anti-competitive and counterproductive for consumers.

Perhaps even worse, greater regulation would almost certainly squelch risk-taking, investment and inventiveness over the long term, as companies would lose incentives to form new ventures, alliances and services and explore new ways to create value consumers would want. Indeed, net neutrality regulation takes us down the wrong path of reduced competition, less consumer choice and greater government involvement and oversight.

To a large extent, the Internet has become so popular, successful and useful because it enriches and empowers people at the individual level. That spirit must not be jeopardized by ill-advised, untimely government regulations. Instead, it must be preserved as we go ever deeper into a new era of high-bandwidth applications and exciting new broadband services.

I hope Bob’s old colleagues over at the FCC are listening!

  • http://tieguy.org/blog/ Luis Villa

    And kudos to him for disclosing that his company stands to garner immense financial benefits through the sale of new, more complex hardware if bandwidth providers are allowed to discriminate.

    Oh, wait, what, he didn’t disclose that? I’m just shocked that someone so ‘brilliant and thoughtful’ would overlook that little detail.

  • deadzone

    Sadly, I am not shocked much anymore by this.

    It all comes down to money and influence. Obviously, this guy Bob has both and sure he’s going to tow the party line, that’s what he has to do because it’s in his best interest to do so for himself and the company he represents.

    At the end of the day, the consumer still doesn’t have a clue and will continue to be irrelevant to the whole process – just the way that all of these big players want it to be. It really doesn’t matter what side of the issue they stand on as they are taking their positions based on what’s best for them, not us.

    What would be shocking is if something were done for the consumer’s best interests. I beleive right now that Network Neutrality is a solution in search of a problem and thus, unecessary at this point.

    The scary part about it all is the what if’s. If these companies start doing things that warrant Net Neutrality Laws, will it be too late? Will our Government be strong enough to resist the lobbying efforts of these mega-buck corporate entities to protect our right to an open and un-restricted Internet?

    Sadly, history has shown that special interest, lobbying, mis-information, and money influences our Government more than what the people want and deserve.

    Let’s hope it never comes to that. While some companies (mainly At&t) have hinted at doing things to restrict us, it still doesn’t seem to be a problem at this point. Most issues seem to be resolved in the court of public opinion fairly well.

  • http://tieguy.org/blog/ Luis Villa

    And kudos to him for disclosing that his company stands to garner immense financial benefits through the sale of new, more complex hardware if bandwidth providers are allowed to discriminate.

    Oh, wait, what, he didn’t disclose that? I’m just shocked that someone so ‘brilliant and thoughtful’ would overlook that little detail.

  • deadzone

    Sadly, I am not shocked much anymore by this.

    It all comes down to money and influence. Obviously, this guy Bob has both and sure he’s going to tow the party line, that’s what he has to do because it’s in his best interest to do so for himself and the company he represents.

    At the end of the day, the consumer still doesn’t have a clue and will continue to be irrelevant to the whole process – just the way that all of these big players want it to be. It really doesn’t matter what side of the issue they stand on as they are taking their positions based on what’s best for them, not us.

    What would be shocking is if something were done for the consumer’s best interests. I beleive right now that Network Neutrality is a solution in search of a problem and thus, unecessary at this point.

    The scary part about it all is the what if’s. If these companies start doing things that warrant Net Neutrality Laws, will it be too late? Will our Government be strong enough to resist the lobbying efforts of these mega-buck corporate entities to protect our right to an open and un-restricted Internet?

    Sadly, history has shown that special interest, lobbying, mis-information, and money influences our Government more than what the people want and deserve.

    Let’s hope it never comes to that. While some companies (mainly At&t;) have hinted at doing things to restrict us, it still doesn’t seem to be a problem at this point. Most issues seem to be resolved in the court of public opinion fairly well.

  • Laura Unger

    Net neutrality legislation would not be necessary if there was the kind of high speed, high capacity build out that there should be. We are fighting over limited capacity. If the capacity was expanded to the extent that it should be in America, the small piece that might be put aside by some companies would not be an issue. We can fight over one lane of a 2 lane highway but would it be an issue if it was a 10 lane superhighway? I believe we do need regulation — not net neutrality, but legislation that protects consumers, incents build out, develops a broadband map of America that accurately reflects what exists and where we need to build/ We need to make sure that we have affordable, truly high speed internet everywhere. See http://www.speedmatters.org.

  • http://www.uglyshz.com/blog Jon L

    I’m confused – if the company he works for:

    “stands to garner immense financial benefits through the sale of new, more complex hardware if bandwidth providers are allowed to discriminate.”

    Then wouldn’t reason say that “oh, if he was just putting up a party line and supporting that which financially benefits him” that he would be IN SUPPORT of net neutrality instead of opposed to it?

    I also think that in regards to a “free and open internet” that our society is at a point where if it starts to get regulated and censored that our entrepreneurs out there will find new ways to meet the consumer demand for unfettered access.

    Either through new fiber networks (Phil Anschutz, anyone?) or through new satellite providers.

    Time and again when it comes to trying to regulate tech use in the US, the consumer [temporarily] loses while someone else figures out how to provide what will get the consumer back to their “happy place.”

    Note what is going on at MySpace and YouTube right now, with restriction of content and the “freedoms” that users previously had or thought they had.

    They’re finding other, more free service providers at a rapid rate (Dailymotion, Xanga, etc.).

    The US has plenty of other upstarts (and some of those actually have $$$) to eat the lunch of those service prodivers who restrict things.

  • Laura Unger

    Net neutrality legislation would not be necessary if there was the kind of high speed, high capacity build out that there should be. We are fighting over limited capacity. If the capacity was expanded to the extent that it should be in America, the small piece that might be put aside by some companies would not be an issue. We can fight over one lane of a 2 lane highway but would it be an issue if it was a 10 lane superhighway? I believe we do need regulation — not net neutrality, but legislation that protects consumers, incents build out, develops a broadband map of America that accurately reflects what exists and where we need to build/ We need to make sure that we have affordable, truly high speed internet everywhere. See http://www.speedmatters.org.

  • http://www.uglyshz.com/blog Jon L

    I’m confused – if the company he works for:

    “stands to garner immense financial benefits through the sale of new, more complex hardware if bandwidth providers are allowed to discriminate.”

    Then wouldn’t reason say that “oh, if he was just putting up a party line and supporting that which financially benefits him” that he would be IN SUPPORT of net neutrality instead of opposed to it?

    I also think that in regards to a “free and open internet” that our society is at a point where if it starts to get regulated and censored that our entrepreneurs out there will find new ways to meet the consumer demand for unfettered access.

    Either through new fiber networks (Phil Anschutz, anyone?) or through new satellite providers.

    Time and again when it comes to trying to regulate tech use in the US, the consumer [temporarily] loses while someone else figures out how to provide what will get the consumer back to their “happy place.”

    Note what is going on at MySpace and YouTube right now, with restriction of content and the “freedoms” that users previously had or thought they had.

    They’re finding other, more free service providers at a rapid rate (Dailymotion, Xanga, etc.).

    The US has plenty of other upstarts (and some of those actually have $$$) to eat the lunch of those service prodivers who restrict things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    Mr. Pepper’s article is a false paradigm.

    He asserts that we should not have have “net neutrality” because the internet “empowers” the consumer. I would agree that the internet empowers consumers since we can create webpages to broadcast our rants. But I fail to understand how the lack of net neutrality regulation actually empowers the consumer. Let’s use cell phones as an example where the cell phone carrier would be analogous to your internet provider. The consumer, with cell phones is NOT empowered by any means. We are given one sided contracts where the rules are written by the service provider. The only power the consumer seems to have is the ability to drop the service if they are not satisfied. All the power belongs to the service provider. Freedom of choice, while valuable, is not the same as empowerment.

    Second, Mr. Pepper discusses a so-called “bill of rights” for the consumer. This so-called bill of rights, to use one example, states “Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to their broadband Internet access connection at their premises, so long as there is no harm to the network.”

    Sounds good on the surface. My problem from the perspective of the so-called empowered consumer is that there is NO obligation on the part of the service provider to provide you with a usable signal that would work with any device that you may have in your home. In this age of DRM/DCMA the phrase “permitted to attach” may be meaningless for the so-called bill of rights, as written, would allow the service provider to require that you buy/rent specific equipment to actually use their signal. (Other devices can be attached, but just won’t work) Now if this bill of rights actually required the service provider to meet certain performance standards and the consumer can demand conformance, I would feel a bit empowered.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Mr. Pepper’s article is a false paradigm.

    He asserts that we should not have have “net neutrality” because the internet “empowers” the consumer. I would agree that the internet empowers consumers since we can create webpages to broadcast our rants. But I fail to understand how the lack of net neutrality regulation actually empowers the consumer. Let’s use cell phones as an example where the cell phone carrier would be analogous to your internet provider. The consumer, with cell phones is NOT empowered by any means. We are given one sided contracts where the rules are written by the service provider. The only power the consumer seems to have is the ability to drop the service if they are not satisfied. All the power belongs to the service provider. Freedom of choice, while valuable, is not the same as empowerment.

    Second, Mr. Pepper discusses a so-called “bill of rights” for the consumer. This so-called bill of rights, to use one example, states “Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to their broadband Internet access connection at their premises, so long as there is no harm to the network.”

    Sounds good on the surface. My problem from the perspective of the so-called empowered consumer is that there is NO obligation on the part of the service provider to provide you with a usable signal that would work with any device that you may have in your home. In this age of DRM/DCMA the phrase “permitted to attach” may be meaningless for the so-called bill of rights, as written, would allow the service provider to require that you buy/rent specific equipment to actually use their signal. (Other devices can be attached, but just won’t work) Now if this bill of rights actually required the service provider to meet certain performance standards and the consumer can demand conformance, I would feel a bit empowered.

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