Network neutrality debate heats up

The U.S. Department of Justice created a stir in the Internet community when it came out against network neutrality last week. In an ex parte filling with the Federal Communications Commission, which has an open docket on the subject, the DOJ said current network neutrality proposals could "inefficiently skew investment, delay innovation and diminish consumer welfare."

Proponents of network neutrality legislation say it's necessary to keep the Internet functioning in the current egalitarian mode. Otherwise, startups like YouTube could never get a foothold because broadband providers would charge them out of business. Broadband providers, on the other hand, say they need to make speed tiers--charge web businesses based on traffic--because high-use sites are hogging bandwidth.

Two Washington lobbies, Public Knowledge and the Open Internet Coalition (of which PK is a member), are pushing for network neutrality legislation because they see speed tiering as a way for the big broadband gatekeepers to control what is and isn't available to web surfers. The DOJ said there is no evidence of that type of discrimination other than when a Madison River, N.C. ILEC blocked a VoIP competitor. There is, however, growing evidence broadband providers are tightening the spigot on subscribers, a practice aka "throttling." The Washington Post recently confirmed reports of throttling by Comcast, which cut off some heavy downloaders. Media pioneer Mark Cuban, who told Congress earlier this year words to the effect of,  "it's the bandwidth stupid," would be grinning smugly if he weren't already disinterested in the Internet

For More:
- The DOJ filing is here (if downloading is coincidentally sluggish, try the associated press release here)
- Comcast says, "yeah, so what. We throttle" here
- Canadians are "caught in the throttle," too