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Download from my NN debate at Columbia MBA conference

Just got back from New York where Dan Brenner of NCTA and I faced off against NN proponents Professor Susan Crawford and Skype's Chris Libertelli.

It was a different format less washington-ish and more finance-ish given the audience and Eli Noam's deft moderating hand.

The quip of the day goes to my colleague Dan Brenner who summed up the net neutrality proponents views as "love the carriage, hate the carrier."

  • So true, they just want to assume that the network will always be there and not have to pay for it.

I framed my views in an MBA context, explaining what was really going on competitively and commercially in the NN debate.

  • I explained that the dominant dynamic in the sector was the collision of the converging tech and com sectors;  (My techcom thesis.) and that net neutrality was simply the politics of that violent collision..
  • I also framed it as a huge clash between the very different business models of the software industry  that wants bandwidth to be abundant and free, and the hardware/network sector that have to invest, build and make the Internet work and that have to keep up with the exploding demand of bringing video to the net.
    • I reminded them of the exaflood point that a 30 minute sitcom consumes 7,000 times more bandwidth than visiting a website,
    • You can't wave a magic wand and have the Internet handle video without lots more investment in capacity -- that someone has to pay for -- and why should it just be the consumer that has to pay that bill.

The best question was how could one bridge the gulf between the polarized sides.

  • I provided a simple and very practical answer; I proposed that the online crowd would find  it easier to reach a compromise on this issue if they agreed to abide by whatever they were trying to impose on their broadband competitors.
    • The gulf is because of the unreasonable demands of the other side.
    • I proposed the simple suggestion that those that want to regulate should be willing to "eat their own cooking."
      • They won't becuase they know their proposed language is bile and poison.

 I also devoted some of my time to repeatedly debunking the notion from Susan and Chris that the Internet owes it success to regulation! Susan and other NN supporters make it sound that it was regulators that made the Internet great and what it is today -- not the innovative people, consumers, businesses, risktakers, investors that really made the Internet what it is today. They are so desperate to regulate that they have rewritten history and can't even see their fabrication.

The other comments I have to share is that Susan Crawford, when asked, saw no need to compromise.

  • She unabashedly thinks broadband should be a utility.
  • Susan also referred to broadband as the "gravel pit" business much to the chagrin of Dan Brenner from the cable industry.

One student asked what policy served the many versus the few.

  • I fielded that loaded trap question, by refering back to the philosophical clash between those who propose regulation versus the free market as a systems clash between socialism and capitalism.
  • I said America has made the call over and over again that it believes capitalism and competition best serve the most people.