At Techweek New York last Friday, a panel of experts gathered to discuss net neutrality and the arguments for and against it.
The panel was made up entirely of supporters of net neutrality, but the moderator did his best to bring up the arguments of those opposed to an open Internet so that the panel could respond.
One member of that panel was Erik Martin, a Brooklynite, and general manager of Reddit. He took the stage alongside Christian Dawson (cofounder of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition and panel moderator), David Pashman (general counsel at Meetup) and David Pakman (VC at Venrock).
Martin pointed out that Reddit is one of the top websites of the world and it manages to stay that way with only about 60 employees. It’s the quality of the service and not the depth of its resources, he argues. This ability for upstarts to compete with incumbents could be jeopardized if Internet providers have the ability to throttle service, Martin said (as Comcast and Verizon may have done to Netflix earlier this year).
The hot topic in the net neutrality debate right now is whether to insure free and open Internet by way of reclassifying broadband providers as “common carriers” (meaning entities they “carry” traffic without regard to what they are carrying, like a postal service or a highway) or under Section 706 of 1996’s Telecommunications Act. Here’s a good summary of the issue at The Daily Dot (but you should skim that common carrier link first).
Section 706 is pretty short and ill defined. It was written at a time when the nation was only just getting a handle on what the Internet was. Its title is “Advanced Telecommunications Incentives,” it runs only a few paragraphs and much of it is about access for schools.
It’s also worth noting that this latter approach was proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who’s previous job was lobbying on behalf of the cable and telecoms companies before being appointed as their top regulator by President Obama.
Millions of Americans submitted comments on the recent FCC proposal to rely on Section 706. Meanwhile, Sen. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) later came out with a confusing idea to mix and match the two laws and conservative groups have come out with a petition saying that the attempt to make sure providers don’t give preferential treatment to rich content providers is a threat to free speech.
Technical.ly Brooklyn will do a follow up piece on how local members of Congress stand on the issue of regulating broadband providers as a public utility.
Also relevant to this conversation is the question of zero-rating certain apps on the mobile Internet. We will draw your attention to one place in the U.S. where it actually is a municipal, public utility and just point out that their Internet speed blows everyone else’s away.
If there’s still parts of this you could use some help with, that’s OK. Reading is hard. This is amazing: