Network Neutrality: Letter to Rep. James Moran (8th District VA) June 22, 2006

 

There have been a lot of misleading or oversimplified ads by both sides of the Network Neutrality debate in recent weeks. This is in regard to bills like HR 5417 (the Internet Freedom and Non-Discrimination Act) and S 2917 (Internet Freedom Preservation Act).

 

I am somewhat confused as to the actual factual history. A few websites claim that there was previous network neutrality legislation that expired in 2005, but I can find no facts to support that. I do know that the FCC effectively requires neutrality in corporate acquisition approvals as an administrative matter. Can you supply me with the facts regarding the current legal environment and what the proposed legislation would actually change?

 

I know that there is some disparity in the business models of those who develop content and applications (like me) and those who develop engineering infrastructures and would need the freedom to create “smart networks” for appropriate customers.

 

Supporters of network neutrality legislation fear that the continued lack of it would tempt communications providers to raise the barrier of entry to small or non profit providers, effectively by making access to their content impractical for most users. I really don’t see, from an engineering perspective, why this should happen as a result of developing newer networks for some appropriate customers. However, there are other problematic scenarios. I wonder, for example, how controversial subscribers who happen to attract hecklers or spam artists who spoof their domain names might fare without legislative protection; they might come to be perceived as nuisances.

 

Opponents of neutrality legislation characterize it as a form of corporate welfare for large corporate content manipulators (like Google). They claim that regulation will hinder smart networks that would enable more choice for most consumers, and would be important for some critical applications as in security and law enforcement. We would not want regulation to hinder tailored solutions to specific problems like spam (for example, validation and micro charges for email), identity theft, or to hinder labeling content more effectively with future technologies to make it easier to protect minors while maintaining free expression for adults.

 

I wonder what your thoughts are on these matters, as well as what the facts are about the current legal environment.  

 

John W. Boushka

 

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