I recently found myself reading David Cowan’s personal blog as a result of researching my previous post on Dr. Dawkin’s letter to his daughter. As I perused his interesting site I found a post entitled “Net Neutrality is Politically Correct“.
If my interpretation is correct, David argues that the concept of Net Neutrality is misguided and will actually cause more harm than good. So, I thought I would take a few moments to issue a friendly, yet opposing view.
Before I get started, here are a few reasons I am qualified to issue an opinion on this topic:
- I was involved in the commercial growth and sale of Internet connectivity and hosting applications from the beginning. (In fact, I personally closed the first sale of a dedicated T-1 Internet connection for GTE, as well as the first dedicated hosting server).
- I held several increasing management positions with GTE (later GTE Internetworking, then Genuity) and had access to all the companies technical resources and knowledge, which I was always intimately familiar with.
- I was Director of US Sales for Cable & Wireless while we were putting the finishing touches on our massive multi-Billion dollar fiber network – and feverishly planning how exactly to best monetize it.
- I was a VP with SAVVIS Communications when we acquired the Cable & Wireless assets, including the Exodus hosting facilities, and involved in countless discussions surrounding the wide variety of assets and capacities in the portfolio.
- I have several friends who were/are in similar leadership positions at competitive companies.
Here now is my response:
I know you’re a fan of Dr. Dawkins, but with regards to your views on Net Neutrality I believe that your inner “critic” has passed the threshold of rationality.
In your argument against Net Neutrality you quote a 20th century playwright who said, “People who demand neutrality in any situation are usually not neutral but in favor of the status quo”; however, that quote has nothing to do with the Internet and you clearly chose it to illicit an emotional reaction. Indeed, even the word “neutrality” is simply a term that makes it easier for laypersons to understand the issue. There is nothing truly “neutral” about the Internet.
You also reference the book Welcome to the MonkeyHouse, which again has no bearing on the Internet and it’s many technical, logistical and capitalistic tendencies.
You say, “So far, this may sound like a reasonable technical issue to debate. But the campaign for net neutrality has transcended logic….” This sounds to me as if you grant that the technical arguments are rational; however, you take issue with the sensationalist tactics employed by those who support Net Neutrality.
- I grant you that Allisa Milano, and other celebrities chiming in on this subject, may be making inaccurate and inflammatory comments to spur people to action. None of this, however, negates the fact that 90% of the fiber in the ground lays dormant and we have plenty of technology to light it up and keep the net performing well for quite some time to come.
- I would argue that your own comments are no different from the ones that you are criticizing, they are merely opposing. You insinuate fiercely that people are making emotional arguments, but what of your choices of quotes and reference materials? They bring no expertise or enlightenment to this topic and only serve to inflame or mislead.
When you state that, “ISPs are not public utilities; they are businesses whose owners–including individual investors and pension funds–have no legal obligation to amuse Eric with whatever Internet sites he craves” you are absolutely incorrect. Time Warner Cable / Roadrunner, Comcast, AT&T, SBC, Qwest, and others are absolutely, 100% unequivocally, public utility providers. They are listed as such by public utility commissions such as this one in Oregon and they even advertise themselves as such (see SAVVIS’ Utility Computing collateral).
Your allusion to the free market taking care of providers who over-charge is an irrational stretch on the principles of capitalism. There are huge barriers to entry when it comes to the ability to be competitive in this space that negate much of that free market effect.
And to top it all off, let’s not forget that the networks currently being operated and underutilized were originally built by Worldcom, BBN, Cable & Wireless and others who at best went bankrupt, and at worst defrauded, the public out of $Billions and $Billions – sending the entire global economy into a financial depression. These networks were paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of the public who shouldered the burden of their debt.
In short you have failed to persuade me that a small number of companies that control the majority of the bandwidth delivery mechanisms should be trusted to dictate the terms on which you and I can be connected – to one another or content providers. Furthermore, I guarantee you, as a former Vice President of one of those companies, that the minute… no, the nano-second that you allow them to, they will begin monetizing the situation with no regard for what is good for the you, the Net or communications in general – only what pads the bottom line. This is, after all, what they are paid to do.