Friday, June 30, 2006

Net neutrality.

There is so much wrong with this article. Not anything the reporter said; what's being said by those against net neutrality. For those not in the know, net neutrality is the principle that companies that provide access to the internet should not be able to discriminate amongst the traffic they carry. (Rather like how one expects a public library to buy and lend books that are good, not merely books that they've been paid to take.)
"E-commerce giants want to compete in communications but don't want communications companies to compete with them," said Scott Cleland, chairman of Netcompetition.org. "Net neutrality isn't neutral; it's a form of corporate welfare for dot-com billionaires. Net neutrality would kill the goose that laid the golden egg, and the goose that laid the golden egg is competition."
This is the most insane series of bad arguments. The first is a clear straw-man -- no one (worth listening to) who supports net neutrality cares about access to Google and Yahoo!. The problem is with access to little sites and small competitors to the giants. The fact that the giants don't want to see their competition get an advantage is a bonus, because it puts some heavy hitters on the side of the little guys; but, ultimately, the danger is that corporations who already control huge amounts of internet traffic will be able to leverage their position into even greater, nigh-monopolistic advantage.

The second is a non sequitur. Competition did indeed help grow the internet. But now, as with all (relatively) mature industries, there are a few extremely rich and powerful companies sitting at the top of the heap. Without regulation, there's a great danger that these companies will form a cartel/trust/whatever you want to call it and keep potential competitors from entering the marketplace. There's nothing more anti-competitive than the winner of a free competition being allowed the same freedom that got them where they are. After all, free competition ultimately changes the competitors to the point where continued free competition would be disadvantageous (indeed, disastrous). Hence, progressive taxation, regulation of mature markets, etc.

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