ESPN Wireless Discrimination – Let This Business Model Bloom

by Mike Wendy on May 10, 2013

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, Director of

Alexandria, VA, May 10, 2013 – The Wall Street Journal reported today that sports programmer ESPN has taken an eye to subsidizing wireless data plans so that their users can watch, surf and play in unlimited fashion on their data-guzzling smartphones without running over some carriers’ data caps.

Because network management issues are more acute for wireless carriers, the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations for such carriers allow for and even encourage this type of reasonable business-model discrimination.  While it is true that a Federal Court might eventually strike down the controversial regulation, policymakers would be wise to let this flower bloom.  Throughout our entire economy arrangements such as these benefit consumers.  There is no reason to believe that the vibrant broadband marketplace should be treated any differently.

If Net Neutrality somehow survives Court scrutiny, agreements like ESPN’s would represent an important Net Neutrality laboratory of sorts – one which legislators and policymakers could glean real-life lessons on the pro-consumer benefits from carriers operating beyond their ostensible Net Neutrality-defined role as passive-only communications conduits.  One hopes that in seeing these benefits, legislators and policymakers might then also see the need to eliminate, or at the very least minimize, the burden imposed on the rest of the marketplace by the myopic, 19th-Century oriented rule.


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