Tim Lee on Net Neut: “The Durable Internet”

by on November 12, 2008 · 13 comments

Tim Lee’s long anticipated Cato Institute Policy Analysis has been released today.

The Durable Internet: Preserving Network Neutrality without Regulation is a must-read for people on both sides of the debate over network neutrality regulation.

What I like best about this paper is how Tim avoids joining one “team” or another. He evenly gives each side its due – each side is right about some things, after all – and calls out the specific instances where he thinks each is wrong.

Tim makes the case for treating the “end-to-end principle” as an important part of the Internet’s fundamental design. Tim disagrees with the people who argue for a network with “smarter” innards and believes that neutrality advocates seek the best engineering for the network. But they are wrong to believe that the network is fragile or susceptible to control. The Internet’s end-to-end architecture is durable, despite examples where it is not an absolute.

Tim has history lessons for those who believe that regulatory control of network management will have salutary effects. Time and time again, regulatory agencies have fallen into service of the industries they regulate.

“In 1970,” Tim tells us, “a report released by a Ralph Nader group described the [Interstate Commerce Commission] as ‘primarily a forum at which transportation interests divide up the national transportation market.'” Such is the likely fate of the Internet were management of it given to regulators at the FCC and their lobbyist friends at Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and so on.

This paper has something for everyone, and will be a reference work as the network neutrality discussion continues. Highly recommended: The Durable Internet: Preserving Network Neutrality without Regulation.

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