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On Net Neutrality

A Battle for the Internet One of the more instructive takes on the burgeoning”net neutrality” debate appears in Wired News, where Michael Grebb outlines the issue in real-world terms. The Internet is not, and really never was, perfectly egalitarian, he writes in an article entitled “Neutral Net? Who Are You Kidding?””Vast amounts of traffic are rerouted and blocked every day,” Grebb says.”The system, while successful overall, seems to ride on the very edge of chaos, insiders say.”And now a battle is building over the future of the Internet. “Arguments over net regulations are nothing new,” says Grebb.”But they have taken on fresh urgency as the industry absorbs a wave of megamergers and the internet rapidly evolves into a high-bandwidth pipe capable of replicating -- and perhaps even replacing -- both traditional telephone and cable TV services.”But how can high-bandwidth applications and services being developed by Cisco and others make business sense if the government mandates that everyone be offered the same level of services?”œCracking down on ISPs by enforcing one-size-fits-all rules could be costly, since such bandwidth management can have a utilitarian purpose,” writes Grebb.”And it’s hard to predict what measures will work best to optimize the network at any given time, or in the future. Cisco Systems’ (Robert) Pepper (Cisco’s senior managing director for global advanced technology policy) says that net neutrality in some of its purest forms could even lead to price regulation of broadband services, which could further erode investment and innovation -- the very things that net-neutrality proponents presumably would like to see thrive on the internet. ‘Regulation is not free,’ says Pepper. ‘It always has a cost.’”Paul Meisner, vice president of global public policy for Amazon.com and one of the key lobbyists pushing for strong action on Capitol Hill to legislate net-neutrality provisions, agrees that services on the net has never been equal. “But none of those services degrade other services on the internet,” Grebb quotes Meisner.”The problem arises when schemes are discussed that would prioritize some traffic over other traffic.”Taking an opposite view is Cisco President and CEO John Chambers, who with others wrote to Congress in March saying no new legislation is necessary, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “Broadband Internet access service providers should remain free to engage in pro-competitive network management techniques to alleviate congestion, ameliorate capacity constraints and enable new services,” Chambers wrote.

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