Monday, February 26, 2007

Broadband's Commentary on Net Neutrality

Read with interest this commentary (free registration required) by Scott Cleland, who heads up an organization called, in which he characterizes the battle of net neutrality as being between the "online giants" like Google, Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon, and IAC that want net neutrality regulation of broadband companies, and the broadband companies like Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and Comcast, who "obviously don't want to be regulated".

Cleland provides three "bottom-line" reasons why advertisers should oppose net neutrality -- quoted from the article:

  1. The companies that advertise very little want to regulate some of the advertising sector's best corporate clients.
  2. Net neutrality will only strengthen the online giants' ability to dis-intermediate advertisers from their corporate clients.
  3. Net neutrality would effectively outlaw broadband from evolving into a two-sided market paid for by both consumer subscriptions AND advertising revenues--the way newspapers, magazines and cable currently operate.
It's no accident that Cleland is himself self-interested -- is described as being funded by the broadband companies themselves.

Missing in this debate, as you might expect, is the potential of broadband companies using their stewardship of this public utility to grant unto itself exclusive content and platform rights, thus squeezing out content players small and large from having a platform on which offer their wares to the public. Without net neutrality, we might not see any more Youtubes sprouting up in the future, which of course would serve the major broadband companies just fine. But the overarching industry problem might also be the stifling of innovation as small players get locked out of the opportunity for distribution, while the pipe-cum-content owners rest on their laurels and maximize profits to increase bonuses for executives rather than plowing them into new content and technological innovations that would improve the Internet experience for users.

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