We had a couple dozen conversations last week about what's next with Net Neutality. (Even before the House vote Thursday night, most assumed the eventual result was fait accompli). Most had the same response and it's music to a lobbyists ears: "It's going to be a long fight."
Feel free to disagree, but the betting types we've talked to are guessing that, all near-term Senate machinations aside, nothing gets out of Congress this year and the next Congress will take up the fight along with a host of other big, pending telecom issues (after all, it took many years to get the 1996 Telecom Act passed). And, regardless of what you think of today's Washington Post editorial against legislation, it won't help move things.
Also interesting are the very small threads of conversations about a potential path towards compromise legislation that would, roughly, give breathing room for ISPs to charge extra for enhanced and bandwidth intensive services, but would put statutory muscle behind any "discriminatory" actions from service providers that run contrary to the FCC's high-level net neutrality principles enumerated last summer.... (more after the jump)...
Indeed, CNET has a revealing interview with Verizion's top DC lobbyist, Tom Tauke, up today. Tauke suggests that Verizion has already worked on turning the FCC's principals to the necessary legalese that could be turned into legislation at some point. Tauke even says that this has been shared with policymakers (or their staffs). Whatever language has been drafted has obviously interprerted the FCC principals in the most pro-ISP manner possible, but, regardless, this act alone suggests that the telcos/cable guys realize that the margins of debate will eventually get minimized. They also may be playing the odds that the next Congress might be the last one that is built in their favor for a good while.
It will be especially interesting to see what mini-camps within the tech and ISP communities start driving a path towards a true middle-ground and which policymakers are most receptive. It's clear that very few have much public stomach for it now. After all, with the ten zillion net neutrality bloggers and advocacy sites, you barely heard a peep about The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation's thoughtful "third way" proposal on Net Neutrality that:
"allows incumbent broadband providers to offer managed broadband services provided that they also offer a basic and growing open, non-discriminatory "best-efforts Internet pipe to broadband consumers."
You didn't hear about it, because it didn't serve the purpose of the combatants on either side of the noisy debate. Not only that, we still find it remarkable how few people fully understand the issues at hand beyond their own talking points. Nuanced perspectives require a higher reading level.
Consider that one of the big proponents for Net Neutrality is Craigslist's Craig Newmark. He began an op-ed for CNN.com on Saturday with:
"Most Americans believe that if you play fair and work hard, you'll get ahead. But this notion is threatened by legislation passed Thursday night by the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow Internet service providers to play favorites among different Web sites."
Except, that there was no legislation passed that would put anti-Net Neutrality statutes into place. Rather, a pro-Net Neutrality amendment was (soundly) defeated. Several blogs noted Newmark's piece, but contrary to the Wikipediafication of the Internet, none corrected this front and center error. Maybe everyone is just to busy arguing.