Friday, September 24, 2010

Joel Stein, Google and Me on Net Neutrality

I never had any strong feelings on net neutrality, but was always annoyed at how superficial the popular debate has been presented in the media, as always a battle between freedom loving techno-hippies and big business profits.

The economics discuss the trade off between regulating the natural monopoly (due to network externalities) of the bandwidth providers, to ensure free entry which is necessary for competitive markets and innovation, versus the benefits that comes with price discrimination (which is generally seen by economists as a good thing) which allows high fixed cost industries like airlines or telecoms to exist while still maximizing the number of people who get to use their services. Economics frames the issues in a useful way but as is typical with economics, doesn't say which is better.

Joel Stein (probably my favorite magazine writer now that David Brooks has diminished himself as a columnist) does a good job in his Awesome Column elevating the net-neutrality debate and helps clarify my thoughts on this.

Stein shares my essentially practical libertarian bias which shows in his column (I also take pride in knowing that we were both Stanford Daily columnists) but makes the case against Net Neutrality well. Especially with "Don't be Evil" google proposing a partial net-neutrality compromise, it seems the tide may be shifting (though google got demonized for it).

I actually participated briefly at the White House when the question came up at the FCC in 2007 (technology was also in my portfolio). At the time the decision was mostly punted, and technically anyway, the White House wasn't supposed to be involved since the FCC is supposed to be independent.

1 comment:

HoBs said...

a reply to a comment from facebook:
no doubt there are good reasons to regulate natural monopoly, but just need to be aware of side effects. net neutrality is very similar to something i worked on which is airports. which essnetially has regulations in place to guarantee any airline has the right to land at any airport essentially for close to free. this has benefits since airports are natural monopolies, so this promotes competition. but this also makes most plans to control congestion illegal (as rules by various courts). thus every time you have a delay out of ithaca airport, you should be reminded of the perils of net neutrality.