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If Noam's right that the future of Internet is telecom-like regulation -- everyone should be very afraid

Read Eli Noam's recent FT editorial "TV regulation will become telecom regulation", becuase if he is right (and I don't think he is) you should be afraid for the future, very afraid.

I have always respected Professor Noam of the Columbia Business School even if I often don't agree with him. He is a rare person who sees this complex space as a whole and has clarity of thought. 

His basic point is that TV regulation will become to resemble telecom regulation more are and more. He concludes that "the present debate over net neutrality is a harbinger of more to come."  Â 

I agree with the professor that there are clearly dueling visions for the future of the Internet: 

  • First the free and open status quo of today where free and open competition, not regulation drives the Internet. This vision has been forwarded by the government decision to commercialize/privatize the Internet in 1992-95 and the 1996 pro-competition law that said it was the policy of the U.S. that the Internet be "unfettered by Federal and State regulation."
  • Second, the new net neutrality vision, which burst on the public scene about six months ago, where they call for preemptive government regulation to ensure fairness on prices, terms and conditions. This preemptive regulation is modeled after monopoly era common carrier regulation, which had been steadily phased out as competition emerged over the last ~13 years.  

Everyone should be afraid if Professor Noam is right that the future is the network neutrality vision which is more telecom regulation oriented.

  • Broadband companies should be afraid (and are) that net neutrality comon-carrier-like regulation would decimate their ability to competitively differentiate to meet customers needs and to innovate and invest to improve the quality and responsiveness of the Internet.
  • Tech and Internet companies should be afraid ( and they are naively not) is a uncontrollable fire that could also burn them. Â 
    • On what objective basis does a competitive broadband provider with ~50% share and falling have more market influence over content that runs through their broadband pipe, than other potential bottlenecks in the tech sector that have much greater market concentration than broadband? 
    • Why shouldn't the network neutrality regulations that tech wants to apply to broadband apply to:
      • the Microsoft potential bottleneck of Microsoft's 90+% share of the OS or browser markets which are being vertically integrated with communcations servers?
      • the Google potential bottleneck of  50+% market share and rising and vertically attached to Google Talk's click to call service?
      • the Intel potential bottleneck of  80+% share of the microchip business that is being vertically leveraged into communications with WiFi and WiMax and its $800 Million investment in Clearwire?
    • Are Microsoft-XBox, Google-YouTube, and Intel-Clearwire excited about Professor Naom's prediction that network neutrality will lead to more telecom regulation? 

The Tech indutry's naivete and hubris that they can get away with just regulating the other guy -- is breathtaking or should I say suffocating? They think they can set the fire of regulation on the competitive broadband industry and that they can contain the fire they set, and prevent the political winds from backdrafting and engulfing them in the conflagration that they set. Its stupid and dangerous to play with matches!