Monday, February 22, 2010

Something on the Op-Ed Page of the WSJ With Which I Agree

At long last an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal makes a statement I endorse: “In the Internet age, transparency is the foundation of trust.” You bet L. Gordon Crovitz (“Climate Change and Open Science,” WSJ 2/22/2010 at A17).

I wonder if Mr. Crovitz would expect the same sort of transparency in the network management disclosure requirements of Internet Service Providers. You see it’s easy for someone to claim that the specifics of network management constitute a trade secret, a “special sauce” for which disclosure would bring financial calamity, or at the very least rob a company of some kind of comparative advantage. Yet transparency is the very thing lacking in ISPs’ decisions whether and how to engage in price and quality of service discrimination.

I readily support many types of QOS and price discrimination provided it is offered on a transparent basis and made available to anyone on the same terms and conditions. I am okay with “better than best efforts” routing sought and paid for by end users and even by content, applications and software providers so long as this option does not guarantee congestion and unusable basic service, or provide the basis to favor ISPs’ corporate affiliates and preferred third parties.

Who would dispute that Comcast was not transparent in its claim that legitimate and lawful network management responsibilities necessitated disrupting peer-to-peer traffic, even in the absence of congestion? So if Comcast was not transparent, how am I and any other Comcast subscriber to trust that the company won’t engage in the wrong kinds of discrimination, i.e., discrimination to provide an boost for corporate affiliates, to favor certain third parties, to discipline subscribers having the temerity to take the company at its word that unmetered service is unmetered?

So Mr. Crovitz climate change advocates surely need to be transparent in their research and statistical compilations and so does the FCC, ISPs and your fellow network neutrality opponents.

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