Venture capitalist David Cowan didn’t drink Google’s free speech Kool-Aid either:
…the campaign for net neutrality has transcended logic, manuevering instead to prevail upon Congress with an emotional appeal to the voters. “If we are silent, if we don’t stand up for Internet Freedom,” warns Hollywood star Alyssa Milano, “corporations will take away our right to choose!” As always, it’s easy and popular to demonize corporations.
In his letter to the public (a great PR play, and a nice pander to regulators who look for reasons to work), Eric Schmidt wrote that net neutrality will prevent broadband carriers from controlling what people say or do online. As I have blogged before, Eric is certainly a genius (I can pander, too), but this call to fear is wrong on so many levels, not to mention egregiously hypocritical. (Remember China?)
For one thing, accelerating a stream of packets, even at the mythical expense of some random packets, does not “control what people do online.” Also, ISPs are not public utilities; they are businesses whose owners–including individual investors and pension funds–have no legal obligation to amuse Eric with whatever internet sites he craves. (Should AOL and the mobile environments of AT&T and Verizon be legally forced to provide access to outside content?) Having said both those things, the market will not reward ISPs who effectively block or even slow access to the full array of web sites–there is demand for express traffic and free traffic, so both sevices should and would exist.
It would be extremely helpful if more VCs would speak out on this issue, as one of the other arguments Google uses pertains to innovation and helping all those struggling college kids in their dorm rooms trying to build the next Google.