Friday, July 14, 2006 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Ed Felten on Net Neutrality

Ed Felten-- he of "Freedom to Tinker"-- has a very good technologist's primer on net neutrality and its difficulties. I of course have an affinity for the piece because I think his answer is close to my "maybe." Here is his conclusion:

Readers looking here for a simple policy prescription will be disappointed. The network neutrality issue is more complex and subtle than most of the advocates on either side would have you believe. Net neutrality advocates are right to worry that ISPs can discriminate - and have the means and motive to do so - in ways that might be difficult to stop. Opponents are right to say that enforcing neutrality rules may be difficult and error-prone. Both sides are right to say that making the wrong decision can lead to
unintended side-effects and hamper the Internet's development.
There is a good policy argument in favor of doing nothing and letting the situation develop further.

I think he is exactly right. Notably, he reaches his conclusions as a technologist, and does not really go into the public choice aspects or the economic aspects of net neutrality. I think both of these analytical lenses add further support to the "do nothing," or rather the "Let the FTC do it" school of thought. Unfortunately, the net neutralists are so ginned up for a political fight right now that they cannot consider Weiser/Atkinson "third way" solutions or my preferred FTC review. Maybe in the fall when the political theater has all died down, folks can get back to thinking seriously about this.

posted by Ray Gifford @ 12:46 PM | Net Neutrality