Tim points out that Vint Cerf’s advocacy for network neutrality doesn’t mean that every venerable internet expert agrees with it. True! Google for “Dave Farber” or “Bob Kahn” and “net neutrality” and you’ll find plenty of articles… from 2007.
I think this debate has stagnated. People are continuing to act as if the FCC’s plan is a complete unknown. This enables the lazy “evil corporation/incompetent government” frame that we all know and love. At one point this was at least semi-appropriate. People — including those like Cerf, Farber and Kahn — made guesses about what was likely to happen, largely based on their own position along the regulation/markets ideological spectrum. “The government is trying to outlaw QoS!” “The ISPs are going to charge for Google!” Both of these positions were hyperbolic.
But look, there’s a difference now: the FCC has announced its NN principles, to thundering… well, there hasn’t been much reaction, actually. Everyone’s just pretending that nothing happened and sticking to their guns. “The principles are too vague!” they cry, even though those principles say that allowances will be made for necessary network management, that throttling heavy users will be okay, that malware can be filtered, that copyright law can be enforced, and that managed services can be developed and sold. That wipes out a significant swath of the ISPs’ objections.
Yet no one seems to have noticed. Here’s Farber responding to the new principles — he doesn’t particularly object to them, he just thinks they’re too vague and that they might make ISPs wary of trying to innovate (as if the research costs to network management are so great that the potential for work product to be shot down makes it impractical; please, this is software). He also says they’ll lead to a bunch of lawsuits, though he simultaneously says we should instead rely on the DOJ and FTC to handle this (in a rule-free environment!), which makes just about no sense to me.
I digress. Look: the FCC has put some of its cards on the table. Not all! Rulemaking still needs to occur (if it didn’t, opponents would be even more outraged). But the agency has signaled that it’s not actually going to do the incredibly idiotic things that neutrality opponents claimed it would. Those people need to acknowledge this fact, and come up with a clarified set of objections. What is it, exactly, that the FCC’s stated plans are going to stop you from doing? Right now I’m just seeing a bunch of now-irrelevant FUD; some talk about how great a monopolistic IPTV market would be; and some hand-waving about “new business models”, which I take to be a synonym for “rent-seeking”. It’s time to admit that the FCC isn’t the one being vague.