When word got out that the FCC agreed to the terms of the Bell South/AT&T merger with a supposed caveat that Net Neutrality principals must be followed for a good spell, one might have expected that the advocates for NN legislation would be able to build some momentum going into a new Democratic Congress.
Instead, there's been murkiness and disagreement over who "won" the merger deal; respected Internet experts coming out against legislation; and, a neat trick of turning the rhetorical tide back on a lead legislative advocate.
Four very smart people weigh in today with a Washington Post op-ed piece that argues against imposing net neutrality requirements on broadband providers. David Farber, professor of computer science and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, Michael Katz, professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley (and former top economist at both the FCC and DOJ), Gerald Faulhaber, a professor at the Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania’s law school, and Christopher Yoo, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, argue that net neutrality laws could stiflle innovation without providing any consumer benefits.
They make a valid case that some kinds of discrimination make intuitive (and probably social and economic) sense, such as ensuring that a patient’s heart monitor gets higher priority than a music download during periods of network congestion. To bar all forms of discrimination might mean harming, not helping, consumers. It’s just not clear “to determine in advance whether a particular practice promotes or harms competition,” they write.
It's not new that any of these professors are against pre-emptive legislation. But, the collective effort, the timing of the op-ed and the placement in the very-tough-to-get Washington Post is what is notable.
Over at Beet.TV, another Internet OG, Esther Dyson, throws around the "muddle" word and says: