Roycroft’s Nonsensical Neutrality Study

The Network Neutrality consumer groups are flogging a study by one Trevor Roycroft attacking Christopher Yoo’s arguments in favor of Network Diversity. Roycroft is an economist whose grasp of communications technology is virtually non-existent. The study, ECONOMIC ANALYSIS AND NETWORK NEUTRALITY: SEPARATING EMPIRICAL FACTS FROM THEORETICAL FICTION consistently confuses the Internet with the telephone lines that parts of it use for consumer access.

But the meaning of Network Neutrality finally comes across: these people want to force-fit the Internet into the regulatory framework that was devised for the old monopoly analog telephone network back in the 1930s. It’s a great example of the old saw “if the only tool you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.”

The differences between the Internet and old telephone network are so vast I hardly know where to begin in pointing them out, but here’s a stab:

1. The Internet is not a single network, it’s a meeting place for large number of private networks, some of which sell access to the public.

2. The Internet isn’t a single-service, analog network or a digital clone of one. It’s a multi-purpose packet-switched network formed by loose agreements of thousands of carriers and supporting dozens of applications.

3. Packet-switched networks manage resources in a dynamic way and have to deal with loads that are highly variable. Consequently, forcing resource management schemes on packet networks that originated in the circuit-switching world is asinine and counter-productive.

4. It’s almost impossible to define “discrimination” in packet network management practice because every packet affects every other packet. It’s more like a market than a centrally controlled and rigorously predictable telephone network,

5. Misapplication of the telephone regulatory framework to the Internet will certainly make the Internet behave more like a telephone network than it does today: limited services, low speeds, and no capital investment.

Network neutrality is a colossally stupid idea. The Internet is cool because it’s not the telephone network; it’s way more powerful and way more capable of doing new and interesting things because it construction applies more intelligence to more dynamic conditions. Forcing it into a regulatory straitjacket devised for analog monopoly is the surest way to kill it.

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