Network Neutrality – You Should Care!

4 05 2006

Why you should care about network neutrality by Tim Wu of Slate.com

(an excerpt analogy to make you care)

“… In trying to figure out who’s right, let’s forget about the Internet and look at KFC. The fast-food chain discriminates. It has an exclusive deal with Pepsi, and that seems fine to pretty much everyone. Now, let’s think about the nation’s highways. How would you feel if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors to provide a special “rush-hour” lane for GM cars only? That seems intuitively wrong. But what, if anything, is the difference between KFC and I-95? And which is a better model for the Internet?

Two obvious differences are market power and the availability of substitutes. KFC is a small fry, relatively, locked in competition with the likes of McDonald’s and Popeye’s. KFC sells Pepsi? So what? McDonald’s sells Coke.

It’s a lot harder to substitute for an interstate. And if highways really did choose favorite brands, you might buy a Pontiac instead of a Toyota to get the rush-hour lane, not because the Pontiac is actually a good car. As a result, the nature of competition among car-makers would change. Rather than try to make the best product, they would battle to make deals with highways.

That’s what would happen if discrimination reigned on the Internet: a transformation from a market where innovation rules to one where deal-making rules. Or, a market where firms rush to make exclusive agreements with AT&T and Verizon instead of trying to improve their products. There’s a deeper point here: When who you know matters more than anything, the market is no longer meritocratic and consequently becomes less efficient. At the extreme, a market where centralized actors pick favorites isn’t a market at all, but a planned economy. …”

I think it matters, anyways. We can’t let major networks get a monopoly-like hold on the internet, otherwise we’re going to have large networks holding large chunks of the internet, and the “best deals” will be going through a mass-media-controlled server. Fuck that.

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