It took me a while, but I’ve finally seen through the rhetoric of the political issue known as Net Neutrality. On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea. Let the Internet flourish. Let the startups innovate and stimulate new services and capabilities that can still promise to change peoples’ lives. Keep the Internet Service Providers chained to best efforts delivery of IP and regulate them to provide access. Sounds fair and just…

… until it dawns on you that the Best Efforts Internet means that the Netflix movie I’m paying for is not reliably streamed to the XBox in the living room because some kids in my town are having a Call-of-Duty Modern Warfare ├╝ber-tournament. Could my ISP do something about that? sure. But, because of the Net Neutrality regulations proposed by Chairman Julius Genachowski (FCC), they’re afraid to do so.

What is the proper solution here?

Let me pay extra for a guaranteed class of service for my movie streaming, so the kids’ CoD packets are dropped first, because they can tolerate packet loss and because they didn’t pay extra. This way, Charter Internet can make more revenues for a differentiated service based on their infrastructure quality and not the speed of access.

I’ve always known that regulating a business around a technology is a flawed approach. It encourages a sub-economy of bypass, rule arbitrage and innovation to save $ or circumvent the censor/regulator. Net Neutrality may be a fair idea, but it can never be implemented and never should be. The natural evolution of a shared best-efforts network like the Internet, is to enable applications that are not tolerant of best-efforts. Now that has been done, we learn that some apps offer lousy experience because of being on a best-efforts network. We also learn that users are willing to pay more to get a better experience. That’s why we need to implement technologies within the network that can support a range of service grades to align with user experience trade-offs and willingness to pay.

Competition in access between cablecos and telcos will be further joined by competition with wireless operators. There is nothing for the FCC to do here except get out of the way and let the natural forces of competition do what they’re best at: satisfy market demands while earning a profit.

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