20 January 2009

Eric Raymond on Net Neutrality

Eric Raymond does the latest EconTalk

There wasn't much new for me - hardly surprising since I've been reading what he writes for nearly 20 years now.  But he did say about the Network Neutrality campaigners that, for the phone companies, "they think they're the best enemies they could possibly have"

It seems a particularly bizarre conspiracy theory to claim that the phone companies are behind the network neutrality movement, but, in fact, they did kick the whole debate off.  It wasn't started as a reaction against anything the phone company/ISPs were actually doing.  It started when they themselves announced that they would quite like to charge large internet services for access to their customers.

I'm not taking anybody's word for this - I covered it myself at the time.  Three years ago, the CEO of AT&T said in an interview that he thought content providers should pay extra.  That was the start of the Net Neutrality war.

In those 3 years, neither AT&T nor anybody else has actually tried to do anything like this.  There have been some big fusses over things like interfering with bittorrent, but the net neutrality argument has been all about a hypothetical.  If regulations get passed, that will be a direct result of the interview Whitacre gave in January 2006.

As I pointed out at the time, Whitacre was taking the piss.  His cusomers have paid for access to Google.   If his successor tries to charge Google for the same thing, they will laugh and say "what will your customers say when you tell them they can't use Google anymore?"  There is approximately no chance this will ever happen.

Given all that, the possibility that the whole Net Neutrality issue is a subtle bootleggers-and-baptists move by the telephone companies to get more regulation sounds a lot less insane.


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