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Balancing Broadband Network Neutrality

Michael Harris
Michael Harris

CNET recently wrote about proposed federal legislation to codify 'network neutrality' rules for U.S. broadband service providers. See 'Playing favorites on the Net' at http://news.com.com/Playing+favorites+on+the+Net/2100-1028_3-6003281.html In a nutshell, online commerce and media players -- from Amazon and Google, to Ebay and Yahoo -- are lobbying for regulations that would forbid broadband ISPs from blocking access to any web sites or applications. A potentially reasonable argument. However, they have crossed the line into utter insanity by advocating that broadband providers be prevented from offering preferential treatment to any Internet application. The uproar is not limited to the U.S. A BBC article ( see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4552138.stm ) criticizes Canadian MSO Shaw Communications for selling quality-of-service (QoS) for third-party VoIP services like Vonage. Get a grip! Shaw is a bad actor because it offers its subscribers an option to improve the quality of the VoIP service they get from another provider? I wrote about this a few weeks ago at Shaw Selling QoS for Unaffiliated VoIP Providers While the issue of 'neutrality' is on the table, perhaps regulators should address some other inequities, such as Amazon featuring only select books on its home page, but not every title available in print. Or Google selling advertising by keyword that enables sponsor links to appear at the top of their search results pages. Or Yahoo! offering a SpamBlocker feature with its webmail service that prevents certain messages from reaching users. Or for that matter, addressing the problem of telcos like SBC or Verizon creating Yahoo! start pages for their broadband subscribers. Broadband providers absolutely must have the right to prioritize traffic to enhance the experience of their subscribers -- particular for voice and video applications -- and earn a fair return on their private network investments. If Google doesn't like it, they should sell more of their insanely overpriced stock at $430 a share to finance the construction of their own broadband networks, and then once completed, implement the world's most progressive network neutrality policies. At the top of the list would be ensuring that the service start page provided links for every Internet search engine on the planet, listed alphabetically.

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