Last week, new Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech proposing that ‘net neutrality’ principles be enshrined in US regulation, and even that they be extended to wireless networks in some form.
The speech and the muted response to it from carriers has highlighted the fact that operators have done a poor job of articulating the argument against net neutrality and for a managed Internet.
Web players have dominated the net neutrality debate in consumers’ minds
The debate over net neutrality has so far been defined by those that created the term, namely web players such as Google, eBay, Amazon, Skype and others. They have argued that a ‘neutral’ Internet would foster openness, innovation and investment, and that it would give consumers (rather than broadband providers) the right to choose which web services and applications succeed or fail.
Broadband providers have struggled to formulate their response to these arguments, and have focused on arguments that centre on their own businesses, such as the need to preserve investment, the perceived ‘unfairness’ of the current broadband business model under which successful web players ‘use their pipes for free’, and so on.
The result has been a lack of popular support for the broadband providers and an overwhelming range of support for the web players among consumer groups, but also among the people in the best position to do something about it. President Obama made net neutrality a campaign issue, and it is already clear that Chairman Genachowski intends to pursue the issue strongly.
In his speech he picked up many of the themes and arguments used by the Open Internet Coalition and others lobbying for net neutrality. The web players appear to have won the argument.