Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

The Washington Post Slams Net Neutrality Regulation

The Post, hardly a bastion of radical cyber-libertarianism, has come out strongly against FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's plans to have the FCC issue "Net Neutrality" regulations. The editorial asks the critical threshold question we crazy cyber-libertarians always insist on:

Is this intervention necessary?

Mr. Genachowski claims to have seen "breaks and cracks" in the Internet that threaten to change the "fundamental architecture of openness." He and other proponents of federal involvement cite a handful of cases they say prove that, left to their own devices, ISPs... will choke the free flow of information and technology. One example alluded to by the chairman: Comcast's blocking an application by BitTorrent that would allow peer-to-peer video sharing. Yet that conflict was ultimately resolved by the two companies -- without FCC intervention -- after Comcast's alleged bad behavior was exposed by a blogger.

Thus, the FCC oppposes pre-emptive regulation that would "prohibit ISPs from 'discriminating against' different applications," noting that this would mean that "ISPs, which have poured billions of dollars into building infrastructure, would have little control -- if any -- over the kinds of information and technology flowing through their pipes."

Three cheers for the Post for recognizing both the property rights of ISPs in their networks and the fact that, even with Genachowski's "slight concession" to allow "managed services in limited circumstances... unneeded regulation could still interfere with [ISPs] ability to manage bandwidth-hogging applications that can hamper service, especially during peak times." Instead, the Post called for simple transparency, supporting a requirement that "ISPs be candid with the agency and the public about network management practices. The last paragraph hits the ball out of the park:

Mr. Genachowski claims that the FCC "will do as much as we need to do, and no more, to ensure that the Internet remains an unfettered platform for competition, creativity and entrepreneurial activity." He will advance this goal by insisting on transparency; he will jeopardize it -- and stifle further investments by ISPs -- with attempts to micromanage what has been a vibrant and well-functioning marketplace.

Amen! The Post is about as "mainstream" as it gets in American journalism, so their strong opposition really underscores that preemptive "net neutrality" regulation isn't the popular cause some in Washington think it is. It is simply infrastructure socialism.

posted by Berin Szoka @ 5:32 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy