FCC Needs Time for a Sanity Check on Network Neutrality

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-05-10 Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: With the Federal Communications Commission scheduled to discuss net neutrality on May 15, special interests on all sides are clamoring for a chance to have their say.

Remember, no company—Netflix, Facebook or Twitter included—went from zero to network-dominating traffic overnight. Facebook took a decade, while Netflix evolved from shipping DVDs to streaming video over the course of its 14-year history. When they were startups, they didn't need vast quantities of bandwidth.

While the focus on saving startup companies doesn't ring true, there's also the question of where these opponents are getting their information. The proposed Open Internet rules have not been published, after all. Right now, the fuss is about one story in The Wall Street Journal, a publication with dubious technical background. That story was essentially unsourced. If I were to try to push a story so flimsy past my editor here at eWEEK, he would have my head.

Partly, all the angst is happening because even the advocacy groups are being self-serving. They need to show that they're on top of things, even if they don't know for sure what those things are. In a way, they're playing into the hands of the big Internet companies that they otherwise claim to abhor.

Now, it's time to ask the parties on all sides of this debate to show that their assertions are true. But, of course, they won't because so far most of what's being said is just pure speculation. There are no facts of any kind to back their assertions up.

Regardless of which side someone in the net neutrality debate claims to represent, there are some questions that need to be answered: How exactly does asking someone to pay for their bandwidth disadvantage others? How does asking big companies to pay for the cost of extra infrastructure they demand put small companies at risk? Why is it wrong to ask a consumer to pay more for more bandwidth? Or, looked at another way, why is it wrong that I should pay less for bandwidth if I don't need as much?

There are lots of predictions of doom from all sides, but to me they seem to be doom only in the eyes of those beholders. I still don't see any actual evidence that any of this fear-mongering from all sides should be given any credence. Nor do I see why I should have to pay more for my Internet access so someone else can watch movies.

However, just as I was wrapping up this column I got a call from Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association here in Washington, D.C. Ed is not in agreement with me about some of the things I say in this column, but fortunately in this partisan city, we're still happy to discuss our differences.

In this case, Ed and the CCIA feel that the changes that may be proposed by the FCC effectively put the last mile providers into the driver's seat, where they will have too much control.



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