Net Neutrality Debates Should Be Abolished

Includes: AKAM, CMCSA, T, VZ
by: Andrew Schmitt

I woke up in SFO at 4AM to make sure I could get to Tahoe in time for Gilder Telecosm's Net Neutrality debate. I’ve written extensively on Net Neutrality and stopped once I realized it was unresolvable. The session was titled Broadband Brawl: A Debate Over Net Neutrality and included the following participants:

  • Tod Cohen, Vice-President and Deputy General Counsel, Government Relations, eBay
  • George Gilder, Editor in Chief, Gilder Technology Report
  • Peter Huber, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; Co-founder, Digital Power Capital
  • Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law and Founder of Center for Internet and Society, Stanford
  • Paul McWilliams, Editor, NextInning Technology Research

  • My Conclusions

  • Part of Akamai’s (NASDAQ:AKAM) business model depends on Net Neutrality. They provide two main services - distributed IT infrastructure and QoS guarantees for content. If carriers charge for quality, then content providers could get QoS right from the carrier, and wouldn’t need Akamai. Or Akamai would have to pay the carrier for quality carriage.
  • Majority of discussion focused on the Bellcos and very little on the Cablecos. In the context of this debate they should be equivalent. Yet everyone perceives the Bellcos are more likely to break net neutrality. I understand Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T) have publicly rumbled about charging for access, and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has not, but the business decision both carriers would make is identical.
  • There should be a ban on all further Net Neutrality debates. This one, like many before it, never resolves the problem. Why? Because today, NO PROBLEM EXISTS. Don’t attempt to debate a fix for something that isn’t broke. Audiences seem to have an appetite for these debates, but the participants are always stuck debating hypothetical problems, and no one ever leaves satisfied.
  • Regardless, a great discussion. Lessig was virtually solo in his support of neutrality… he could have used an ally.

    See full transcription of this and other sessions from the conference here

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