Just when I was about to enjoy an evening with Nicole Beharie … okay, enjoy an evening watching Nicole Beharie on “Sleepy Hollow“, I get a tweet strongly suggesting that net neutrality drives innovation. At my advanced age I’m learning to take deep breaths before going ballistic, and the five or six people (hopefully they are people and not spammers) who follow me know that when a net neutrality proponent mumbles anything resembling support for that most intrusive of broadband policies, well, you may as well drop chum in the water and call me Bruce the Shark.
I responded to the tweeter (whose only saving grace was that he is a libertarian … go figure) was that open network architecture, not net neutrality, drove innovation. An open network architecture as defined on Webopedia.com is:
“An architecture whose specifications are public. This includes officially approved standards as well as privately designed architectures whose specifications are made public by the designers. The opposite of open is closed or proprietary.
The great advantage of open architectures is that anyone can design add-on products for it. By making an architecture public, however, a manufacturer allows others to duplicate its product. Linux, for example, is considered open architecture because its source code is available to the public for free. In contrast, DOS, Windows, and the Macintosh architecture and operating system have been predominantly closed.”
While open network architecture speaks to standards of design for apps and operating systems of the internet, net neutrality speaks to the behavior of the broadband provider. The Federal Communications Commission’s rules contain three major components of net neutrality:
- Transparency. Broadband providers must disclose information regarding their network management practices, performance, and the commercial terms of their broadband services.
- No blocking. Fixed broadband providers (such as DSL, cable modem, or fixed wireless providers) may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. Mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services.
- No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service. Unreasonable discrimination of network traffic could take the form of particular services or websites appearing slower or degraded in quality.
Net neutrality, with its emphasis on restricting behavior, cannot be argued to drive innovation. Entrepreneurs seeking to innovate their product don’ t turn to government rules for inspiration and encouragement. Net neutrality proponents seem to take that view of government regulation; asserting government’s influence on technology development without providing one iota of evidence supporting that view.
We can all agree that the ability of application developers to test and deploy their products have given us Mozilla, Skype, Tweetdeck, and a million other applications. Imagine, however, if someone came along and said we can’t have high-occupancy vehicle lanes or if you are in the regular lane with three people in your car, an HOV lane cannot be made available to you. Those types of restrictions would see automobile designers (akin to app developers) building only three-wheel motorized scooters that can seat only one person and hit 40 miles per hour.
That’s not innovation.