June 28, 2007

Net Neutrality Tempers Flare, and Cross Borders

Tensions and voices are rising over a push by Internet carriers such as AT&T to charge content providers — such as Google — for access to their networks.

John Kneuer, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s assistant secretary for communications and information, got in a shouting match with delegates at a San Francisco technology conference after giving a speech in which he said the government ought not step in to protect internet access and innovation.

He said that the market had created a wealth of broadband providers to choose from, which provoked shouts of “There is no marketplace!” from attendees.

Their point, according to The Register, is that the few large corporations controlling the “lion’s share” of broadband Internet access do not constitute a competitive market.

The issue has caught the public’s attention as well, prompting 11,000 Americans to write to the FCC, both for and against government regulation.

Speaking at a recent conference in Singapore, an American lawyer warned Asian telecom providers against following the U.S. lead by enshrining net neutrality, which he said could lead to a lack of competition and innovation.

But a recent study conducted by the University of Florida using game theory showed the opposite: that allowing broadband carriers to charge providers for content gives them less incentive to improve their networks, not more.

Sources:

“Bush official goes nuclear in net neut row”
The Register (U.K.), June 22, 2007

“Thousands petition feds on net neutrality”
Wired.com, June 19, 2007

“Warnings sounded over net neutrality in Asia”
IDG News Service, June 19, 2007

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