“Feds and Internet Service Providers Don’t Mix”

by on September 30, 2008 · 12 comments

[Not sure if someone else has mentioned this here yet, but… ] There’s a terrific piece by Paul Korzeniowski in Forbes this week about the Comcast-BitTorrent debacle called, “Feds and Internet Service Providers Don’t Mix.”  It’s well worth reading the whole thing, but I particularly like this passage:

For whatever reason, some believe ISPs should not be able to put any restrictions on the volume of information that any user transmits. That’s absurd. Per-bit and per-byte pricing models have long been used for data transmissions. In trying to build and sustain their businesses, carriers constantly balance their attractiveness and viability versus unlimited usage pricing models. By government decree, they no longer have that option. In effect, the FCC has decided to tell ISPs how to run their networks.

A related issue is Comcast’s reluctance to disclose its network management processes. The reason seems obvious. Carriers spend literally billions of dollars installing and fine-tuning their networks each year. If they can move traffic more efficiently from one location to the next than their competitors, it translates to a more profitable bottom line.  But network neutrality advocates maintain that Comcast has an obligation to open its network operation to the world. Why not have Kentucky Fried Chicken publish its original recipe or Coca-Cola tell us how it makes soft drinks?

Exactly. It gets back to a point I stressed in one of our podcasts on this issue about how “transparency” regulations are great in theory but in practice might have some rather profound implications.  More generally, there’s just the fact that it further puts the camel’s nose in the Internet tent by inviting regulators in to meddle more in the name of “transparency.”

As always, Richard Bennett has far more interesting things to say about the issue than me. Check out his essay about this same Forbes piece over at Circle ID.

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