There I said it: The Net Neutrality “debate” is the Climate Change “debate” of the Internet

i.e., it’s no debate at all, not a serious one at least.

It’s more of a huge mess created from taking the good intentions of well meaning people and twisting them to fit economic and other interests.

I could stop here and feel relieved that I finally expressed that which has been haunting me after having spent 3 years on a single paper on the economics of interconnection.

It was actually my frustration from failing to explain the data and economic concepts used in this paper that made me give up on the area and turn to privacy and transparency (in this regard “thank you network neutrality camp!”).

I just couldn’t explain the rather obvious economic fact that a super market can’t function efficiently if the cashier just weigh how much stuff you get and charge you the same independently if you are taking 5 kilos of potatos or 5 kilos of white truffle.

I am not planning to write a full essay on this (yet) so here goes in almost random order my take aways from these 3 years:

1. Connectivity is a two-sided market

When you are campaigning, writing, lobbying, yelling about network neutrality you actually fight for the right of people to keep paying for 100% of interconnection (aka last mile) costs. You may as well fight for your right to pay a higher price for passes for the MWC so that exhibitors can get free booths, or for your right to pay a higher price for magazines so that advertisers can place ads for free.

2. “What about the  little guy?”

Many seem to worry about the small startup without the “deep pockets” that won’t be able to afford paying for the “fast lane”. Well, the little guy has little traffic and therefore doesn’t need to have deep pockets in the first place. If ISPs want to deconstruct this rather superficial argument they should just offer the fast lane for free to small companies and only charge if traffic (aka business) ramps up. This would give the little guy a competitive advantage over established service monopolies/oligopolies that frankly, would be the ones to be challenged the most by a change in the current status quo.

3. “Throttling”

A heavy word. Implying that certain traffic will be delayed so that other traffic can take priority over it. This implies a “zero-sum” Internet in which if I have more leg room (like in business class) you are not able to open up your laptop or reach for the fork. The internet is not zero-sum. If companies want to push HD video or gaming traffic they can go through different lines and ports so that you don’t have to hang up your call to your grandma.

4. Internet Democracy, Freedom of Speech, etc

This is where it all began (the “good intentions” I mentioned earlier) but it’s not about this anymore. Any attempt to exploit non neutrality for something in this area would be suicidal for the brand image of any commercial organisation. Despotic regimes and tyrants don’t care about half measures like non neutrality – they go straight to good old blocking.

5. “Harm innovation” and other “arguments”

When someone resorts to “harm innovation” it means that he is already loosing the “debate” so he has to take out the H-bomb. Usually this comes after “Internet Democracy, Freedom of Speech”, i.e., when 4. fails to convince. The “Harm innovation” “argument” is so fuzzy and ethereal as an “argument” that is indeed difficult to deconstruct. It’s like trying to shoot at a ghost. You’ll never get it. I’ll just say that “business innovation on the web” is not the only innovation in and around technology. Yes there exist innovative, and even smart people, that don’t do web and javascript.

I’ll stop here for now.

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