Wednesday, February 1, 2006 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Net Neutrality Viewed Charitably

Maybe I'm finally beginning to understand what is driving Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and their like to push for Net Neutrality mandates, even when it is not really disputed that no problem presently exists that requires a regulatory remedy. It's the anticipatory eleemosynary impulse!

I just read the January 22 piece in the Washington Post entitled "The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet." It's all about net neutrality. I was especially struck by the last paragraph of the story: "At the end of the day, Google's [Alan] Davidson says that his biggest worry is not for Google but for the prospect of bringing fresh innovation to the Internet. After all, if worse comes to worst, Google can pay AT&T or BellSouth to maintain its role as the Internet's dominant search engine. But the bright young start-up with the next big innovative idea won't have that option."

That reminded me of a line I had read back in June 2002 in some comments Amazon filed urging the adoption of open access and net neutrality mandates. So I dug out the comments to see whether it was true that I really remembered anything from 2002. Here's what I found in Amazon's comments: "Although's popularity probably would prevent ISPs from attempting any such [blocking or impairing] tactics (because a large number of customers would object), small or new websites would not be protected by similar extent demand."

Aha! So Amazon and Google know that they are unlikely to confront the allegedly worrisome discrimination that net neutrality mandates supposedly would prevent. It's really all about their desire to protect the little guys so the little guys will have an opportunity to grow as big and as dominant as Google and Amazon are now.

Well, maybe. But, at least inside the Beltway, when someone says, "It's not me I'm trying to protect, but that little guy over there!" it's worth thinking about what is really going on.

posted by Randolph May @ 10:06 AM |