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Net Neutrality: Complicated

Before bloggers erupt in outrage over the impending "net neutrality" brouhaha, I think it important to try to learn more about it. It's not as cut and dry as some are positing. I'm in the process of trying to learn more about it, but with a limited economics background, I'm not sure I'm the one to properly frame this debate.

However, if the topic interests, you can read about the potential harms of a net neutrality regulation from J. Gregory Sidak's February 2006 testimony to Congress. Sidak argues that the supposed anticompetitive risks that would accompany a departure from net neutrality obligation are implausible. Regulation, he argues, would severely disrupt the market's ability to recover infrastructural costs. Over-regulation of broadband providers' ability to recover these costs will ultimately result in a deterioration of the market for all involved.

On the flipside, take Stanford University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig's testimony at the very same hearing. Lessig argues that if the FCC doesn't regulate broadband providers' ability to access-tier usage of their networks, which is essentially an additional charge on specific services (e.g. streaming video), the decidedly negative result would be an essential auctioning of bandwidth to the highest bidders.

The crux of his argument is that "the internet's growth is a crucial part of the nation's economic growth." He urges Congress to take steps that assure "that the current concentration in broadband access does not translate into reduced application competition on the Internet."

So, there you have it.

As always: nuance. Super.

So before my head explodes from painful memories of economics classes, I'll retire this thread. It's not totally clear yet (to me, anyway), which of these arguments is correct, though the first argument seems to me to rely on a more generous view of the word "competition" as it applies to telecommunications. In that light, FCC regulations governing what broadband providers can (consumer-tiering) and cannot (access-tiering) seems proper.

So... back to sports.

For more: Original MZone post here.

Bruins Nation with substantive breakdown here.