This Friday, the FCC will hold an Open Meeting and the first agenda item is the complaint by Free Press and Public Knowledge against Comcast. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal today, the agency “will rule that the cable giant violated federal policy by deliberately preventing some customers from sharing videos online via file-sharing services like BitTorrent…”
As I wrote just last week, it’s critical that we can all agree with the principle that “some kind of network management is necessary to ensure a quality experience for our customers.” Once we get past that concept, we can discuss and debate what’s the best way to achieve the goal of a quality Internet experience, but we can hopefully also agree that the government is not the best body to make these decisions.
In this morning’s Washington Post, FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell poses the question: Who Should Solve This Internet Crisis? He outlines past network challenges and describes how “engineers, academics, software developers, Web infrastructure builders and others” came together to find solutions. He then answers his own question.
The Internet has flourished because it has operated under the principle that engineers, not politicians or bureaucrats, should solve engineering problems.
P2P apps present particular challenges for network managers, as McDowell acknowledges, and just building bigger pipes doesn’t fix the problem. That’s not to say that this challenge (and others) can’t be addressed. McDowell points out that we need to avoid creating a bigger problem.
Our Internet economy is the strongest in the world. It got that way not by government fiat but because interested parties worked together toward a common goal. As a worldwide network of networks, the Internet is the ultimate “wiki” environment — one that we all share, build, pay for and shape. Millions endeavor each day to keep it open and free. Since its early days as a government creation, it has migrated away from government regulation.
If we choose regulation over collaboration, we will be setting a precedent by thrusting politicians and bureaucrats into engineering decisions.