Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ted Cruz’s Bumper Sticker Reference to Network Neutrality as Obamacare for the Internet


            It’s quite understandable for a politician to summarize complex issues and to distill them into pithy bumper sticker slogans.  So it comes as no surprise that Senator Ted Cruz (or his staff) would come up with the glib analogy between Obamacare and network neutrality.

            Yet again our elected officials fail us with media-ready quips.  From my unsponsored vantage point, I can agree that the President should avoid overstep and respect the role of independent regulatory agencies such as the FCC.  But I surely can take umbrage at Senator Cruz’s sloganeering.

           The network neutrality debate suffers from politicization and more broadly much of the FCC’s work product has become politicized, and interpreted as partisan.  Similarly, anyone who writes about FCC subjects ends up being assigned to one, mutually exclusive camp, or the other.

             I reject such cubby holing.  Should you read my considerable work on network neutrality, you would see someone striving to find the truth and a proper way forward.  My work does not fit into any single camp.

            Robust and sustainable broadband competition does not exist in the United States for first and last mile access despite the blessing of having two wireline options (DSL and cable modem).  Data caps, latency, questions about congestion, equipment costs etc. preclude treating wireless as a functional equivalent to wireline at least for the time being.

            On the other hand, I do not support converting Internet Service Providers into utilities, or thinking that Title II reclassification will solve all ills.

            I do not think the Internet should be completely neutral either.  If I want to view "must see" television, e.g., a Penn State football game, or a Netflix movie, I want my ISP and every other carrier involved in carrying "mission critical" bits to handle them with priority, "Most Favored Nation” treatment.  

            On the other hand (I am an academic!), I don't want Comcast deliberately messing with a competitor’s traffic to extort additional payment.  Netflix should have the option for securing "better than best efforts" routing, but I don't want Comcast to have the ability to penalize small ventures that do not have the traffic volume to cause congestion, or have the funds to pay a surcharge that Comcast does not deserve.

            So I am no one’s true believer.  For this I am ignored and/or defriended by parties on both side.

            Whatever became of reasonable disagreements and civility?

2 comments:

larry f martinez said...

Thanks Professor Frieden for your comments about the over-simplistic sloganeering as politicians try to make political hay in their scramble to the presidential sweepstakes now in full bloom. Recent columns have pointed out that our telecommunications marketplace is perhaps as much of a hodge-podge as health care, so perhaps Cruz may be onto something. States passing laws banning municipal broadband utilities that might offer real competition are analogous to the ills of the health care marketplace. In a more political sense, the Republicans by opposing some kind of net neutrality "fair deal" for consumers, risk further alienating the younger demographic that is very aware of their online interests.

Stuart said...

Getting the FCC and government out of regulating the Internet is a difficult task in the era of BIG GOVERNMENT. Net Neutrality will suck the life out of competition and innovation. Better a free for all and cravat emptor then politicians and career bureaucrats deciding whats information and whats not and choosing winners and losers.