Avoiding the slippery slope of network neutrality regulation -- regulate down for all not up for some

Regulate down for all not up for some is the excellent core message of the Wall Street Journal's op-ed "Google Exceptionalism," which spotlights the slippery slope toward Internet regulation of selectively applying new net neutrality regulations to only some "networks" predicated on fairness.

The WSJ op-ed helps focus the debate on what has helped make the Internet so successful --the bipartisan Internet policy statement in the 1996 Telecom Act that it is the policy of the United States  "to preserve the...competitive free market... Internet... unfettered by Federal or State regulation.For fifteen years, bipartisan consensus has resisted the siren song of some to regulate or tax the Internet, and in turn this bipartisan consensus has allowed the Internet to flourish.  

The WSJ op-ed also helps focus the debate on the perils of abandoning regulatory restraint toward the Internet based on neutrality/fairness.

The FCC Chairman's proposed rules to preemptively regulate a segment of the Internet to preserve an open Internet, risks reversing the current successful dynamic of fairly "regulating down" with less regulation rather than unfairly "regulating up" with more regulation for some. 

The core practical problem with instituting "network neutrality" regulations based on the justification of fairness/neutrality is that is a very real slippery slope. If one's overriding Internet priority is neutrality/fairness, the huge dilemma is legally and fairly defining what is a "network" and what is "neutrality?"

Is a "network" only what a network was before the Internet, or is a network also one of the myriad of networks of the "network of networks" that now comprise the Internet?

To use a skiing analogy, Google finds itself on a "black diamond" slippery slope of being captured in any definition of a "network" because the FCC's Broadband Policy Statement, principle four, already makes it clear that the statement applies to Google because it says "consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers and content providers.

  • In addition, Google's CEO proclaimed Google a "distribution network."
  • Moreover, if net neutrality is about consumers accessing the information of their choice, Google undeniably has the world's largest "network" for accessing ithe "world's information" via the Internet.
  • Furthermore, convergence is rapidly blurring what a "network" is. Is Google's dedicated interconnection of data centers worldwide not a network? If Google does not have a "network," what is the glue that ties Google's data centers and business together and enables it to work for users in miliseconds? 

Is neutrality fairness? Is neutrality not picking sides, not picking the content/devices/applications consumers can choose? Is neutrality not picking the supplier choices consumers have?

  • The steep slippery slope the FCC finds itself on the edge of -- is that its obviously not fair or neutral to selectively restrict only some in the same Internet category and not others in the same Internet category, especially preemptively.

This brings us back to the core message of the WSJ op-ed today. What works much better for the Internet and all concerned is for the Government to continue to "regulate down" for all rather than reverse course and selectively "regulate up" for only some -- if neutrality and fairness are the true aim.