Re:Net (Non)Neutrality Regulation

Heard a presentation by Jim Gattuso of Heritage yesterday. He's the author of this backgrounder on the nearly-incomprehensible -- and incomprehensibly-named -- topic of net neutrality.

Here's what we gleaned from that session: "Net neutrality" = "net regulation." If you want to regulate the net, you'll love net neutrality. Net regulation will require a one-size/one price fits all approach to the net. Today, you can spend more to get a better car, house, iPod, whatever. Even the US Postal Service allows you to spend more to send a letter or a package faster. So why is it bad for companies to be able to charge more for faster and more complex Internet service? If you don't want that, you'd pay less. Makes sense, no? Remember the market?



We wrote about this a while back. Someone sent us an article comparing this debate to the Post Office, noting the different rates for mailing a post card vs. a bicycle. Under net regulation, the government would require that you pay the same for both. Guess what happens to the price of mailing a post card?

Another point made by one of the attendees at yesterday's session, cutting through the clutter of what net regulation meant was this: "Who do you trust to manage the development of the Internet -- the private sector or the US Government?" Only one answer to that one. Glenn Reynolds make the point in his excellent book "An Army of Davids" that had the Internet been a government mandate, it'd still be stuck somewhere in dial-up land, no doubt. It was precisely because government got out of the way that the Internet proliferated at a rate not predicted by even the most ambitious seers.

In any event, speaking of The Examiner (see below), there was a good piece in there yesterday on net regulation by former Congressional Budget Office Director and resident wise man Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

So when you hear "net neutrality", think "net regulation." From there, the picture gets quite clear.

[UPDATE]: Here's an editorial on the topic from today's Examiner, and here's a letter we sent to Sen. Ted Stevens on the Senate bill.