Last month the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC, an industry-centered think tank that focuses on the networked society, convened a group of scholars and industry insiders to discuss the hot issue of net neutrality, and recently released a statement that they say is intended to balance public and industry interests.
Their statement, in my opinion, underscores the imbalance in the policy debate in favor of private industry interests, who it should be remembered are allowed to operate a national and international infrastructure with very little regulation. We’re living in a time when experiments with infrastructure deregulation are old enough and complete enough to allow us to draw sound general conclusions, and it is very clear that privatization of infrastructure can be relied on to remove structures of accountability and work against the public interest (contrary to ridiculous promises – e.g. Enron). The fact that net neutrality is emerging as something that we have to fight for, and that it is a fight we may not win, is the first major sign of the negative consequences of a private-run, big-money dominated, underregulated internet infrastructure.
For a decent white paper on net neutrality that I wish the output of powerful groups like the Annenberg Center would at least somewhat resemble, see John Windhausen, Jr.’s Good Fences Make Bad Broadband: Preserving an Open Internet through Net Neutrality.