Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Finally, a well-reasoned, and reasonable, net neutrality proposal

In all of the noise about net neutrality, especially the polarizing PR battle fought between the network operators (AT&T, Comcast, etc.) and the big content players (Yahoo, Google, etc.), I was ready to say "a pox on both their houses!"

But, finally, amidst all the shouting, comes a very well-thought out, truly "neutral" proposal from the Center for Democracy and Technology (thanks to Stephen Wildstrom of Business Week for publicizing their proposal). CDT recommends a legislative solution that is lean but carefully balances the legitimate commercial needs of the broadband internet service providers and the low barriers to entry, application-indifference, and nondiscrimination that made the internet the social benefit it has become.

Some highlights:

  • focusing any regulation only on the Internet service provider businesses of the operators. Closed networks (like the existing cable television distribution network) as well as internet-based VPN services would be exempt.
  • fees for content requiring different bandwidth should be levied on the end-users of the content, not the producers of the content
  • allowing carriers to monitor and manage content for the purposes of fraud prevention or prevention of illegal activities.
  • supporting notice and takedown processes to quickly remove pirated material
Wildstrom goes a bit further than the VPN concept and recommends allowing a two-tiered Internet, with one base tier free from discrimination, and premium tiers available at a cost, either to the end-user or the content provider or both. That sounds reasonable too.

When are the stakeholders going to get together and start working on productive solutions? Because all the yelling is making my head hurt.

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