Net neutrality: Which side should showbiz be on?

Advocates face off on the issue

According to Art Brodsky, communications director for the advocacy group Public Knowledge, Net neutrality isn’t just good for consumers: The overall broadband network, he says, “is more valuable to everyone — owners and users — the more great applications and content there are. With Net neutrality, you are going to continue the diversity that created today’s Internet, rather than have the telephone or cable companies play favorites.” The idea is that more diversity equals more activity equals, ultimately, more revenue.

The entertainment industry would definitely benefit, Brodsky adds: “All entertainment companies should want to have the same chance at reaching their potential customers/listeners/viewers without the telephone or cable company dictating which company might have an advantage over another through paying some sort of extra fee.

“When the telephone or cable company plays favorites, other companies get left out. That doesn’t help either the companies which don’t want to pay extra to the telephone or cable company, or, more importantly, the customer who wants to hear the music, see the video, etc.”

A Smarter Internet

But Mike McCurry, co-chair of the anti-Net neutrality group Hands Off the Internet, says today’s Internet is actually the problem at the center of the issue. “The Internet we enjoy today bears no resemblance to the Internet we’re going to need three to five years from now,” says the former chief spokesman for the Bill Clinton White House.

Because of voraciously increasing bandwidth use due to video, bigger and “smarter” pipes will be needed, he adds. “The only way to get that is to invest in and build more” infrastructure.

With NN, McCurry says, it’s not clear who would build the pipes nor who would profit, thus scaring off potential investors. Without NN, telcos and cablers could deploy plans to charge a premium price to Web sites and downloaders who are moving large amounts of content and thus want and need faster (smarter) pipes.

McCurry says this is a far more equitable way to distribute the cost for building the next version of the Internet, and it would be an incentive for investors to pony up the needed cash.

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