A roadblock to progress

We’ve won a convert. USA Today’s technology pundit Andrew Kantor has seen the light:

A big technology issue in Washington is network neutrality. It’s the debate of how the companies that own the Internet’s “pipes” should treat the information moving over those pipes.

A neutral Net — at least one version of it — would have them treat all data equally, from the slimiest spam to the highest-quality video. The Comcasts, Coxes, Time-Warners, and Verizons of the world wouldn’t be able to give preference to any content, even if someone wants to pay for it.

Proponents of Net neutrality spin it as a way to prevent those big network providers from discriminating against the little guys (who might be competing with them). They want to be sure that Time Warner doesn’t ‘lock out’ companies that compete with it — say, up and comers like YouTube — or give preference to their own content.

Without a Net neutrality law, those proponents say that providers would be able to, in the words of Chris Johns of Public Knowledge, “look at the packets going over their lines, and block or degrade access based on how much protection money their clients have paid them.”

Not too long ago, I was very much on their side. “Imagine you make a phone call to a friend,” I wrote then, “but instead of hearing it ring, you get a recording: We’re sorry, but the person you are calling has not paid Verizon to carry his or her conversations.

But I was wrong.

We all want fair and non-discriminatory treatment of all the services on the Internet, the debate is about how we achieve that end. The regulations proposed by Net Neutrality advocate are sadly out-of-date and counter-productive. Kantor’s a bright guy, so let’s hope he’s the harbinger of more conversions.

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