An Unexpected Party


Battle lines in the Net Neutrality debate have long been established – if you have a vested interest in being paid for Internet access (e.g. if you are a communications service provider) or if you sell content (e.g. if you sell pay TV and/or own the conduit over which it travels), you probably are of the position that Net Neutrality will destroy the economy and the civilized world as we know it, and give you no choice but to lay off half your staff if it passes (heaven forbid). If you are a consumer, or someone that gets paid for facilitating access to content (like Google), you are likely to be in favor of it.

Which is why it was initially such a surprise to see Google on the “anti” side in its joint statement with Verizon that proposed (among other things) that the wireless Internet be “closed.” After all, hasn’t Google championed N.N. forever? Then I remembered that Google 1) derives 97% of its revenue from advertising and is becoming more concerned with protecting the interests of its advertisers, 2) offers paid content over YouTube, and 3) is close to launching a music service. Not surprisingly, Google is defending its stance.

But another unexpected party took a stance in Net Neutrality debate, unequivocally siding with it: the media industry executive Barry Diller. His holdings present his argument – he wants consumers to have unfettered access to them. The New York Times last week had one of the most objective articles I’ve seen on Net Neutrality (and Barry Diller’s position) in a long time. It seems counterintuitive that Mr Diller would be pro N.N. and anti-consolidation of the media, but kudos to him for taking these positions.

I was initially willing to give FCC chief Julius Genachowski the benefit of the doubt for his “Third Way” attempt to strike a balance between both sides of the Net Neutrality debate, but on further reflection, I have to agree with Mr Diller – it’s a sham. The New York Times article had the best one sentence definition I’ve seen in awhile: “in the broadest sense (the principle of N.N.) holds that Internet users should have equal access to all types of information online, and that companies offering Internet service should not be able to give priority to some sources or types of content.”

PS – This is my second recent blog post with a Lord of the Rings reference – although it’s just because I liked it as a title, not because it has anything to do with the actual story. Sorry ’bout that but I’m enjoying the books again.


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