The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, June 12, 2006

Harry Reid supports Net Neutrality... but the WaPo doesn't

A couple of bloggers have mentioned off-the-record conversations with Harry Reid over the weekend in which the senate leader said he's in favor of the issue-- that's good news coming on the heels of the House vote to pass legislation allowing Internet providers to start controlling content.

In a decidedly strange WaPo article, the editors adopt the chosen talking points of the telecoms. A few weeks ago, the industry ran a massive ad campaign on the blogs called 'Hands off the Internet.' It disappeared pretty quickly, because Net Neutrality means that Congress would essentially pass a law stating that they wouldn't pass laws. In short, preventing regulation. It's the telecoms who are pushing for (favorable) regulation, but they hoped to create a wave of libertarian sentiment. So why did the WaPo get it so wrong? They close with "If this proves wrong, the government should step in. But it should not burden the Internet with preemptive regulation."

The rest of the editorial is just weird. They use a straw man: "The advocates of neutrality suggest, absurdly, that a non-neutral Internet would resemble cable TV," only to create their own "far better analogy" of a "supermarket."

Their main point seems to be this:

Meanwhile, there are powerful arguments on the [anti-neutrality] side. If you want innovation on the Internet, you need better pipes: ones that are faster, less susceptible to hackers and spammers, or smarter in ways that nobody has yet thought of. The lack of incentives for pipe innovation is more pressing than the lack of incentives to create new Web services.

Sure, that's a subjective conclusion, but it ignores the crux of the matter-- regulating the Internet to increase telecom profits wouldn't guarantee innovation on their part any more than windfall oil profits have led to widespread investments in R&D. It's just meant bigger executive paychecks.