June 24, 2006

Net Neutrality, Trust, and Fear

Greetings. As I watch (and participate in) the various arguments concerning network neutrality, I do agree with you that the level of emotion that has entered the debate tends to distract us from the underlying technical and non-technical facts.

But this sort of emotion should not be unexpected -- from either side.

The telcos in particular have watched their traditional business models melting away like the Wicked Witch of the West -- drenched in the water of Internet services that bypass conventional communications models. They see their salvation to a large extent in the dream of becoming Yet Another TV Service, and perhaps there will be enough competition in that space to make that work for customers to some degree. The telcos don't like to be reminded that their very existence has been predicated on many decades of monopoly-enabled revenues, but let that pass for the moment.

The other side of the network neutrality debate -- Internet services in particular -- has a different point of view. There are various facets to this relating to telcos vs. cable companies and such, but I believe that a major part can be boiled down to one concept.

They don't trust the phone companies. They've watched as telcos have made infrastructure promises to communities that were never fulfilled, have used anticompetitive means to squeeze customers into packages that limit rather than extend customer flexibility, and in general have not engendered a warm, fuzzy feeling that what the telcos promise today will be worth a wooden nickel down the line -- unless there are laws to force them to comply. To quote the great philosopher Chief Engineer Scott: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." It's difficult to dispute history on this one.

Fear and a lack of trust are tandem ingredients that have driven the network neutrality debate into the current impasse. Perhaps if we can at least accept this fact, we can start to move beyond this seemingly solid brick wall of accusations and counter-accusations. Maybe.


Posted by Lauren at June 24, 2006 06:44 PM | Permalink
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