The great deregulator speaks on net neut

Alfred Kahn deregulated airlines and trucking in the US, and he’s not feeling the love for net neutrality regulations:

Some 25 years ago, I thought it was logical to try to prevent cable television companies, as beneficiaries of exclusive territorial franchises, from discriminating against unaffiliated suppliers of programming in favor of their own by prohibiting broadcasters holding a financial interest in the programs they carried. I eventually recognized, however, the public benefits from the especial incentives of the several broadcasters to produce programming of their own, as well as to bid for independent programming, in competition with one another; and that that competition sufficiently protects independent providers from discrimination or exploitation. If Google and eBay depend upon the telephone and cable companies for reaching their audiences, that dependence is mutual: what would happen to the willingness of subscribers to sign up for DSL or cable modem service if one or the other of those suppliers decided not to carry Google or eBay?

Demonstrably, those broadband facilities have to be created by investments — especially huge ones by the telephone companies — and applications requiring priority transmission can entail lower priority transmission of others. Except as broadband service is subsidized by governments — a possibility I do not exclude — those costs must be collected from users — subscribers to broadband services, on the one side, providers of programming or content on the other, or some combination of the two — just as in the case of newspapers or television stations.

Why all the hysteria? There is nothing “liberal” about the government rushing in to regulate these wonderfully promising turbulent developments.

If you’re interested in the Internet’s future, read the whole thing, it’s a comment on the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s blog.

4 thoughts on “The great deregulator speaks on net neut”

  1. “Deregulation” of airlines hasn’t been all that great for the business traveler.

    In fact, airline travel today is a public health menace, far, far more of a threat than terrorism.

    Read “The Great Influenza.”

    The likelihood of flu pandemics -even not considering avian flu – has the potential to kill literally 2 orders of magnitude more people – in the US alone- than perished on Sept. 11.

    And you can blame Democrats and Republicans for that sorry state of affairs.

    Off topic, I know, but today the way air travel is, I wouldn’t hold it’s regulation or lack thereof as any kind of great benefit…

  2. If the purpose of business travel is to provide business travelers a cushy trip at the expense of their company’s customers and shareholders, then deregulation has been a disaster. On the other hand, if purpose of business travel is to better serve customers and increase the profitability of the company, then deregulation has been highly successful.

    Regulation and deregulation always create costs and benefits (and losers and winners).

  3. Ahem. Back to the topic of the article, let’s leave aside access to web sites like Google and Ebay for a moment.

    I am opposed to ‘net neutrality’ if it means that the quality of my IP telephony will be severely degraded because my packets are moving at the same priority as SPAM e-mail.

    I am opposed to ‘net neutrality’ if it means that the internet will never be able to compete with cable TV, no matter how much excess bandwidth is added to the end user, because nodes along the route can’t prioritize video and audio and guarantee prompt delivery.

    As for the airline industry, it is a frivolous waste of precious resources if all we’re talking about is civilian use. As fuel becomes more expensive, airlines will lose even more money, and air travel will be less attractive for business or pleasure. Teleconferencing over a non-neutral internet could obviate the need for much business travel. High-speed rail could meet the needs of most business travel, and provide much more capacity for passengers and cargo than airways and highways put together.

    So we’re left with the idea of a ready reserve for military use. Many of today’s civilian pilots are yesteryear’s military pilots, and could quickly resume their former roles or train younger folks to be pilots. Passenger airliners can carry troops or have all the seats removed within hours to carry military cargo.

  4. The increasing impracticality of air travel means it’s all the more important that we don’t have impediments to Internet-based video-conferencing systems, and that’s exactly what net neut is: an impediment to the pricing model that makes video-conferencing work.

    (PS: I’m not outraged that airline deregulation allowed all those unwashed commoners to sit beside me on the airplanes. That’s what it was all about.)

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