Write What You Know

by on July 31, 2006

This is the most embarrassingly clueless critique of network neutrality regulations I’ve seen in months. Music lawyer Chris Castle explains that the real reason that copyleftists like Larry Lessig are pushing network neutrality regulations is to ensure that ISPs don’t discriminate against peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. In addition to being riddled with technical errors (A VPN is not faster than an ordinary Internet connection, and TCP/IP packets aren’t marked with “DNS addresses”), his argument doesn’t even make sense:

The fundamental reason that massive file bartering can continue is that it doesn’t cost users anything more to use their high speed Internet accounts to send an email to their granddaughter as it does their granddaughter to illegally download 5 gigabytes a day of copyrighted materials.

One can easily understand why the Lessig/Fisher cabal supports “net neutrality” given their continued support of massive copyright infringement through “nodding and winking” litigation. However, it is easy to see how Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand could be used to make free riders pay for their use of the Internet for illegal purposes.

Many BitTorrent and p2p connections are excruciatingly slow as it is. Imagine if end users of these products found themselves dumped to the end of the line unless they wanted to pay for higher speed connections.

As far as I know, no network neutrality proposals to date would prohibit bandwidth metering. And they certainly don’t prohibit charging extra for higher-speed connections. I suppose that neutrality regultions could prevent ISPs from singling out P2P packets specifically for discrimination, but it’s not clear why ISPs would want to do that. If P2P applications use more bandwidth than other applications, then charging high-traffic users more would discourage P2P use without running afoul of anti-discrimination rules. And if other applications are equally bandwidth hogs, presumably ISPs would be interested in controlling those too.

Castle also has a weird, sneering attitude toward encryption. Apparently the only reason a user would want to encrypt his traffic is to hide illegal file sharing. It’s not like users ever transmit confidential financial or medical information over the Internet.

I hope Mr. Castle’s understanding of the law is better than his understanding of the Internet.

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