The FTC and Net Neutrality
The debate over network neutrality further intensified as the Federal Trade Commission held a two-day workshop this week on whether to regulate the way U.S. phone and cable handle the transmission of Internet data as it crosses their networks. Network neutrality would prohibit Internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast from charging companies like Google, eBay and Sony–which seek to use the Web to provide content-rich, bandwidth intensive applications–higher fees to boost the quality and reliability their services are likely to require. Over the course of the two-day workshop, many net neutrality advocates conceded that some degree of prioritization and QoS will be required as Internet services evolve. This represented major progress in the debate. Only a few months ago net neutrality fans were insisting there would never be any rightful role for management and prioritization in the transport layer–where the service provider fall. I'll let slide the fact that this shift coincides with a recent statement by Google, standard bearer for the net neutrality movement, that expressed true concern that the surging amount of video crossing the Internet endangers efficient operation and quality. I'd rather credit the work of AEI scholars Robert Hahn and Robert Litan in documenting the long history of debate within the Internet community about the "end-to-end principle" as well as this rather pointed blog post at the Progress & Freedom Foundation about how applications and content providers have long been using discriminatory server networks available from companies such as Akamai.