Monday, December 10, 2007

European Assessment of Network Neutrality

I had the good fortune to participate in a conference on Network Neutrality from a European perspective organized by WIK-Consult GmbH in Bonn Germany; see http://www.wik.org/content/netneutrality_main.htm. I got the distinct impression that European stakeholders and regulators take the matter quite seriously and refrain from what one participant deemed “policy entrepreneurship,” i.e., the bombast, hyperbole, partisanship and mean spiritedness that permeates the policy making process. I also sensed that for better or worse the European approach creates both the ability and incentive for regulators to act in ways the FCC would never consider, e.g., determining that wireless call terminations are too expensive and setting lower rates. On the other hand carriers would never consider engaging in the kind of stealth traffic “management” and “shaping” designed to discipline heavy users.

The thoughtfulness of European viewpoints juxtaposes with what has become a food fight in the U.S. Advocates all too readily assume that it would be “curtains for the free world” should their policy prescriptions get ignored.

Consider Verizon Wireless’s 180 degree turnabout. While one can applaud a now sensible pronouncement, how can one ignore the most vituperative and down right arrogant positions taken by Verizon’s sponsored advocates and the slightly more civilized statements made by Verizon executives? Verizon Wireless gets great public relations dividends for its enlightened new stance, but it suffered no disgrace for supporting “curtains for the free world” advocacy if any wireless Carterfone initiative took root.

Are we to conclude that the marketplace, or the court of public opinion has persuaded Verizon Wireless to rethink its policies? Or is there less than meets the eye here?

1 comment:

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