When Is Simple Not Simple? When It’s Not Simple

by Mike Wendy on October 4, 2010

Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran two articles that delved into the weighty issue of Net Neutrality.  The first, by Bob Pegoraro (“It’s put-up or shut-up time for the FCC’s net-neutrality advocates”) is self-explanatory – the FCC must act and now to regulate the Internet via Net Neutrality regulations.

Pegoraro’s article reads almost like a Free Press press release (but I digress). In it, he blithely opines:

The issue here is simple: Should the government prevent Internet providers from discriminating for or against legitimate sites, services and applications?

In the next line, he basically contradicts himself:

That’s not a theoretical risk. Telecommunications firms and some networking experts have argued for the right to charge other sites more for faster delivery of their data or put the brakes on some online uses that they feel clog their networks.

The writer then crudley concludes:

If the commission can’t or won’t [impose Net Neutrality regulations] now that every other remedy appears exhausted, it should admit the obvious, end this farce and stop wasting everybody’s time.

If it’s a simple issue but the details aren’t, is it in fact a simple issue?  The second article, by the Post’s Cecilia Kang (“FCC’s Julius Genachowski struggles between roles of regulator, innovator“) answers that.  In explaining to the Post’s audience why Net Neutrality regulations haven’t gone forward, FCC Chairman Julius Genachoswki says:

“There is no clean solution because we have a Communications Act that wasn’t written for broadband.”

The Chairman’s right.  It wasn’t written for broadband.

Kang continues, noting:

[Genachowski] said complex questions about how net neutrality can be a rule for wireless phones requires more thinking. There [also] needs to be more examination of a pitch by Google and Verizon to allow companies to pay for better delivery of some content on networks.

The truth of the matter is the (stalled) plan offered by the Chairman, and endorsed by such groups as the Free Press, is anything but simple.  It’s radical – especially given that the Internet works.  As this video I cut last week illustrates, it’s a throwback to 19th Century transportation regulation…for 21st Century communications networks.

A never-ending onslaught of regulations has resulted over the past 75-years from the “limited and sensible” powers the Free Press and others now ask for the FCC. Rightfully, the FCC has slowed the train down to take a closer look. Contrary to Pegoraro’s contention, every other remedy hasn’t been exhausted. The market already regulates itself, keeping the Internet open and free. De facto Net Neutrality – without expansive rule or regulation – is embedded into industry practice. Consumers have reaped tremendous benefits as a consequence.

How’s that for simple?

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