March 30, 2006

MA Rep Weighs In On Net Neutrality [2:38 pm]

I got an email from Ed Markey’s office on today’s subcommittee hearing, pointing to his positions on the subject: Network Neutrality. From his statement at the hearing today:

In my view, rules ensuring network neutrality are indispensable.

I understand that there are those who argue that we should rely on mere network neutrality “principles,” or an imprecisely-worded FCC policy statement, rather than legally enforceable rules. Others will advise us to take a “wait-and-see” approach.

Yet we know from public statements from several industry executives that the owners of the broadband wires into our homes would like to start charging fees to Internet content providers. In other words, they want to artificially constrain the supply of Internet-based content and services to high-bandwidth consumers. This represents nothing more than the imposition of a broadband bottleneck tax on electronic commerce. Such a bottleneck tax for accessing consumers will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on investment and innovation.

There are some out there who will inevitably ask the question, “But why shouldn’t Google pay?” Google certainly has a very large market cap and presumably could afford to pay. But that is precisely the wrong question to ask. The question to ask is whether Larry Page and Sergey Brin could have afforded to pay circa 1998, whether Chief Yahoo Jerry Yang could have afforded to pay a broadband behemoth circa 1995, whether Marc Andreesen, the founder of Netscape, could have afforded to pay anyone, anything, circa 1994.

If there is an entrepreneur in some proverbial garage somewhere today, whose idea is new, whose product is still in “beta,” their dreams are just as real and valid as Larry’s, Sergey’s, Jerry’s, and Marc’s were an Internet-generation ago. We should be doing everything we can in public policy to ensure that this successful Internet model continues to drive innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

Instead, the proposed bill before us effectively condones online discrimination and then ties the hands of the agency from promulgating any guidelines to address it. The Barton bill actually says the FCC that it can never adopt rules to protect the Internet experience for the millions of entrepreneurs and consumers who rely on it.

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