The Net Neutrality Frankenstein

by on August 5, 2010 · 0 comments

At ten A.M. Pacific this morning, CNET asked if I could write an article unraveling the legal implications of a rumored deal between Google and Verizon on net neutrality. I didn’t see how I could analyze a deal whose terms (and indeed, whose existence) are unknown, but I thought it was a good opportunity to make note of several positive developments in the net neutrality war this summer.

Just as I was finishing the piece a few hours later, another shocker came when the FCC announced it was concluding talks it had been holding since June with the major net neutrality stakeholders. It’s possible the leaked story about Google and Verizon, and the feverish response to it, whipped up by the straggling remnants of a coalition aimed at getting an extreme version of net neutrality into U.S. law by any means necessary, soured the agency on what appeared to be productive negotiations. Or maybe they’ve just gone as far as they can for now.

So I started over, and added emphasis to the outside-the-beltway developments that, in the end, may offer the best hope for a resolution to what is, after all is said and done, a technical problem requiring a technical solution.

I’ll let the piece speak for itself, in part out of necessity–I’m pooped. (I now have renewed sympathy and appreciation for the work of real journalists, which I am not.) But had I had more time and more column inches, I would have emphasized one point I hope comes across in the story. And that is that the politicization of problems of network management has done nothing to solve them. It has done the opposite.

What’s become even clearer in the last 24 hours is how the extremists in this largely-choreographed fight are determined not to have it end. They don’t care about free enterprise, consumers, or respect for the rule of law–though these are the principles they make the most noise about. But that’s just what it is, noise.

Memo to Silicon Valley: you’re wise to avoid as much as possible the politics of technology. But the best way to take issues away from politicians is to solve them with engineering.

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