October 19, 2006  ·  Lessig

I wrote this piece for the FT, arguing the phenomenal success of YouTube is yet another argument for Network Neutrality. The data in the piece comes from this great report, Broadband Reality Check.

One point the compactness of 800 words didn’t let me make fully: Obviously, everyone spends tons of money to make their content flow more quickly than the competitor. But the question is whether the market in which they spend that money is, in a word, healthy. If there’s lots of competition, then that expenditure is efficient. If there’s not, then it is a barrier. Or that, at least, is the argument.

  • http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/blog/blogView James Robertson

    On last week’s TWiT podcast, Jerry Pournelle made a good point about this (IMHO). He’s against new law (of any stripe) in this arena, because he doesn’t trust what would come out of the Senate committee in charge of that stuff (Ted Stevens being the chair). I don’t think the party or chair matter all that much – I simply don’t trust what would come out at the end. I’d rather have no law – and have the blogosphere and media able to pressure corporations – rather than have a law, and then have the corporations toss their hands in the air and say “call Congress”.

  • http://www.einemillioneurohomepage.de Onlineshop Optimierung

    A very interesting site, I think. The Idea of Technometry was new for me but worth to be read and thought abot it (although I’m not a native english-speaker and have some difficulties whith this language)

  • http://blogs.cisco.com/gov John Earnhardt

    Not trying to pick a fight, but in the spirit of debate I just posted a response to your FT op-ed here: http://blogs.cisco.com/gov/2006/10/net_neutrality_how_can_you_tel.html

    If you really believe what your are saying (I believe you must), then I think that the rhetoric you have used just doens’t add to the debate…which is why I have responded in kind the way I did.

  • http://handsoff.org HOTI

    We at Hands of the Internet echo James Robertson’s comment above.

    Also, The Precursor Blog posted a response to your editorial at

    He takes issue with three of your assertions: 1. broadband competition is dying; 2. number of competitors offering broadband today than there were 6 years ago; and 3. charging for premium service.

    You may not agree with the assessment but I would hope you, as a professor, might accept Precursor’s constructive criticism.

  • http://www.mediaaccess.org Harold Feld

    Full disclosure, I’ve worked on the Net Neutrality issue for a number of years, going all the way back to 1998 when we talked about “open access.”

    I recognize the strong distrust of government regulation, particularly among technologists with strong libertarian leanings. To this I make several responses. Mostly, I’m going to refer to posts on my own blog, Tales of the Sausage Factory, because these areguments are complicated and cannot be neatly summarized in sound bites or bumper sticker slogans about bad government and good technology.

    1) The internet evolved out of precisely this kind of regulation of the physical network provider. You can find my backgrounder and appropriate citations in this post caled “Debunking Telco Disinformation”: http://www.wetmachine.com/totsf/item/511
    And my “Network Neutrality Primer”: http://www.wetmachine.com/totsf/item/500

    2) Life is sometimes about choosing among least favorite alternatives. Frankly, I would prefer the old “opne access” regime which gave ISPs direct access to the physical network plant so we could have real competition. Other countries that have gone that way, first in Asia, now in Europe, are enjoying the benefits of competition. They have higher speeds cheaper.
    That included a network neutrality/common carriage component, of course, but went beyond that.
    What we are looking at today is not whether we trust “the market” or “government.” The question is “how much control over internet content do you cede to the few companies with last mile connections?” The risk of a bad result from imposing a uniform rule on systems by government action needs to be balanced against the real world problem that the vast majority of users in the U.S. face 2 choices for provision of broadband, some have more choices (I live in a competitive area) and some have only a monopoly provider or no one providing service.

    Reality doesn’t give a crap about bumper stickers. It’s not enough to “distrust government.” You need to look at the real alternatives as they will play out if there is no government action.
    I think this produces really awful economic impacts:
    Why it sucks for business and creates a disincentive to build high-bandwidth systems.
    Why some regions will suck worse due to “Virtual redlining”: http://www.wetmachine.com/totsf/item/484

    3) Finally, there are very real risks to our ability to communicate freely if a handful of companies can control the flow of information. http://www.wetmachine.com/item/440%22
    We have seen precisely this happen with NSA and the phone networks. http://www.wetmachine.com/item/510

    Even where there is no intent by companies to censor content, the “collateral damage” caused to free speech by permitting a tiered internet is significant. http://www.wetmachine.com/totsf/item/453