Netflix founder Reed Hastings wants to move his company’s video distribution system off the postal system and onto the Internet, where it would become a major consumer of bandwidth. He’s worried about traffic-sensitive pricing, so he invokes the all-singing, all-dancing Wonder Principle, “net neutrality”, on the opinion pages of America’s most credulous newspaper:
Today, forces are at work to stake out future control of Web site traffic and eliminate the Internet’s longstanding openness. Cable and phone companies are currently working on Capitol Hill to protect their ability to discriminate in the delivery or prioritization of Internet content based on its source or ownership. The giant cable and phone companies don’t want Congress to limit their power to discriminate against Web sites. They want to be able to pick and choose the Internet content that travels via high-speed broadband.
This sounds really great, but it unfortunately fails to acknowledge that the Internet is a mesh of financial agreements among broadband carriers which delivers different levels of service to different customers. Invoking the image of a network that never was to block progress in network engineering is a fundamentally self-serving, dishonest ploy.
Netflix uses a transport system that offers different levels of service to customers with different needs, the US Postal Service. While I can sympathize with Mr. Hastings’ desire to have Fedex service for the price of a first class stamp, I’d rather not be the one to pay the difference.