In response to a criticism of a defense of Senator Steven’s essentially correct “Internet tubes” speech.
Rockwell’s and Steven’s basic point is that internet bandwidth is a scarce resource, and the only way to efficiently use it is to allow entrepreneurs to decide how resources should be allocated, and how traffic should be prioritized. While the internet was not initially a private entity, the companies that now run it have found many ways to do so in the past, and are currently experimenting with new methods that have been made possible by new technology, and that will make new technologies possible.
Until recently, it was not technologically possible to prioritize certain types of internet traffic over others, making the internet unreliable for mission-critical applications, which required expensive dedicated connection that were only feasible for large corporations. However, the exponential growth in computational power has recently made it possible to examine the contents of individual data packets and prioritize them accordingly. What the net neutrality debate is essentially about is whether ISP’s should be allowed to prioritize those packets by the sender of the packet in addition to the type of packet it is.
I think that there are many possibilities that are made possible by such party-based “packet discrimination” – such as remote surgery, which is currently too unreliable without a very expensive dedicated line. This can’t be done by class-based packet prioritizing alone, since it can’t distinguish between a YouTube homemade video download, and a surgical telecast. Email another area packet discrimination can help –charging a small “toll” for email traffic has been frequently mentioned as the best way to make spam unprofitable.
These possibilities may or may not pan out – but what right does a politician have to stop me from investing in them?
Update – I respond to Ben:
“As to remote surgery…Would a two-tier Internet make that possible? I don’t think so.”
I disagree. But the point is not which of us is right, but that this disagreement should be resolved by entrepreneurs and consumers, not politicians who half-blindly regulate business models out of existence.
The irony of Senator Steven’s argument is that his ignorance makes his point: the architecture of the Internet must be left up to the market, because politicians are far too ignorant to make such decisions.