Susan Crawford's FAQ on Net Neutrality

by Bruce Stewart

I almost always enjoy and agree with Susan Crawford's postings and her latest summary of the issues swirling around the Net Neutrality battle is well worth a read. Susan has distilled down much of the commentary to 5 frequently asked questions, and challenges others to answer each of these questions (as she did) in 150 words or less.

If you've been unclear or waffling on this issue, I suggest heading directly over to Susan's post. It helped clarify some of my thoughts and concerns, and like she often does, gets right to the heart of the matters at hand.

I'm hesitant to quote any of the post here, as I really hope others will go read hers in its entirety, but this passage jumped out at me:

What they mean by 'the internet of the future' is a cable system -- not the internet. They'll be using their market power over broadband access to force us all to accept their cable-ized version of 'the internet' and to force nascent Googles to pay protection money. Those nascent Googles may never come into being -- so net neutrality is a right-to-life movement for new technology.

These incumbents don't have competition. We have no real information about their costs or how their networks work. We're having this argument about "need for additional revenue" in the dark. They've been promising to build broadband networks for a long time, and we're falling behind as a country.

We know from Japan that competition for broadband access (lower prices, higher speeds) comes when you force the incumbent to "unbundle" (let competitors use its facilities on nondiscriminatory terms). That's the real 'internet of the future.'

And this one too. One thing we've seen a lot of at O'Reilly is that Susan is dead-on about innovation often not coming from those with the deepest pockets. The garage innovators and alpha geeks that we try and pay attention to often lead new technologies in interesting and unanticipated ways.

The deepest pockets are not the deepest sources of innovation -- to the contrary. The telcos think of the internet as a "broken network." They only know about networks over which they have perfect control. When was the last time a new telephone service was introduced? Call-waiting?