Realist View on Net Neutrality: Only the Lawyers Win

Michael Giberson

Ray Gifford offers a realist’s prognostication on the likely effects of network neutrality: only the lawyers win.

Not the end of the world if network neutrality laws pass, not the end of the world if they fail to pass. Only, if network neutrality becomes law, low latency high-speed service will be routed through “private networks” while ordinary traffic travels via the “public network” internet. The distinctions between the two will be somewhat arbitrary, but important to the law, and that is why lawyers win. Overall, a sensible if not too hopeful view.

Compare the calm Gifford tone to the more alarmist sounds of eBay CEO Meg Whitman (that’s her smiling face in the picture) in an email sent to members of the “eBay community”:


Right now, the telephone and cable companies in control of Internet access are trying to use their enormous political muscle to dramatically change the Internet. It might be hard to believe, but lawmakers in Washington are seriously debating whether consumers should be free to use the Internet as they want in the future … These large corporations are spending millions of dollars to promote legislation that would divide the Internet into a two-tiered system….

Today’s Internet is an incredible open marketplace for goods, services, information and ideas. We can’t give that up. A two lane system will restrict innovation because start-ups and small companies — the companies that can’t afford the high fees — will be unable to succeed, and we’ll lose out on the jobs, creativity and inspiration that come with them.

No, the big, bad corporations aren’t trying to take away your internet.

The best explanation I’ve seen is that some phone and cable companies are contemplating a build out of “last mile” connections to consumers using ultra high speed fiber optic systems. They hope to earn some of their profits by selling high-value video, phone and other services to those consumers. Their prospects for succeeding at this part of the venture depends upon their being able to restrict ultra high speed service to the services they offer. If they are required to provide open access on any ultra high speed wires they build, it diminishes their incentive to invest in the system.

(It doesn’t look like eBay has posted the letter itself online, but here is eBay Government Relation’s position on net neutrality.)

Addendum: A Bay Area techie, who bills himself as “The Only Republican in San Francisco“, writes to draw my attention to his own worthy collection of postings on net neutrality. Try here or here, or read them all. Good stuff.

3 thoughts on “Realist View on Net Neutrality: Only the Lawyers Win

  1. In a battle between multi-million dollar mega-corporations I’m not sure how consumers advocacy groups got fooled into supporting into supporting the side that will ultimately lead to higher consumer costs and less consumer choices.

  2. Lawyers write laws. Lawyers write regulations. Lawyers (judges) interpret laws and regulations. Lawyers win every time, by default. It’s incestuous!

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