The Open Internet & Innovation

Healthy skepticism for authority.

Senator McCain (AZ) just introduced the inaptly-named "Internet Freedom Act," (S.1836) in which he and cosponsors propose to allow those things which the government's Open Internet proposal specifically prohibits.

 

Senator McCain "called the proposed Net neutrality rules a 'government takeover' of the Internet that will stifle innovation and depress an 'already anemic' job market in the US." (rawstory.com)

 

He further said, according to the Congressional Record, "[the FCC] will seek to impose 'net neutrality' rules that would reign in the network management practices of all Internet service providers, including wireless phone companies.

 

"Skeptical consumers should rightly view these new rules as yet another government power grab over a private service provided by a private company in a competitive marketplace."

 

The Senator has overestimated the competitiveness of the marketplace for carriers, in which huge numbers of consumers have very little choice in who carries their traffic, and in which it is impossible, owing to the size of the current oligolopoly, to start up a new business. And the "network management practices" Senator McCain is so wrought to protect are systems such as traffic-shaping and deep-packet inspection which not only seek to control your internet experience for you, but would seek to inquire into the nature of every piece of information you send or receive over the net.

 

Senator McCain is looking for innovation in the wrong place. Innovation on the internet has always come from users who have tried new things on the open architecture the open internet has permitted. Senator McCain would instead allow large carriers to engage in savage rent-seeking by shaking down your favorite web portals in order to be guaranteed usable speed to you, their paying customers. No such guarantee of easy money could possibly result in innovation, unless it were the innovation of entrenching their power position even more deeply.

 

The thinking of well-intentioned people who have initially come out against the proposals for open internet is meant to display a healthy skepticism for authority. Such a thing is desirable, but must also extend to the large, publically-traded carriers who would seek to shape the net to their most profitable ends with very little in the way of accountability.

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Idea No. 8