This week, we released a transcript of the network neutrality book launch event PFF hosted at the National Press Club this past July. With the COPE Act laying dormant until at least after the election, the issues surrounding network neutrality are still subject to debate.
Many of the panelist's arguments against network neutrality mandates cited prevention of business model experimentation, resulting in insufficient revenue for continued investment in networks and content. Apprehension was also voiced about basing the rational for regulation hypothetical market concentration concerns. On the other side of the coin, the "many-to-many" open architecture of the Internet was cited, along with the declaration of a neutrality mandate simply preserving a fundamental principle of the Internet. An economic argument for neutrality mandates was also stated with the claim that network operators thrived in an environment of scarcity so these operators will hinder the growth and deployment of high speed networks.
What struck me as the most compelling reason to not implement neutrality regulation came from distinguished technologist David Farber. Of all the panelists, his concerns were probably the most difficult to argue against. He explained that "fundamental changes are arriving in the technology that's used in future Internets." Specifically, he explained that IP/TCP protocols have reached the end of their evolution:
"It's old, there are a lot of problems with it, and there's a lot of research activities now focused at rethinking those protocols in fundamental ways, even questioning, with the future of all-optical networks, whether, in fact, packet switching is the right way to go. These things make it very, very difficult to start passing laws that talk about constraints on how you do things on the Net. One man's discrimination can be another man's attempt to provide security and robustness in the Net."
Farber also voiced concern that if Congress is allowed to start "mucking around in the Internet," it will be difficult to stop them from expanding their reach.
I hope if the net neutrality issue is taken up again after the election that legislators will heed the wise words of David Farber. It's pretty hard to argue with a man whose former students are considered the fathers of the Internet.