Net Neutrality, or Something for Nothing

The Senate held hearings on network neutrality yesterday, gathering testimony from FCC Chairman Kevin Martin as well as a few minor Hollywood celebrities. Martin, who with the FCC has hosted two of its own hearings on Web-based network and applications management so far this year, prudently argued against regulation of the Internet. Hollywood-types showed up to call for federal prohibitions on the use of network management techniques. Simply put, they don’t want to pay extra for the management services that would be required to make their commercial entertainment services work properly while alleviating the congestion their applications place on more pedestrian Web users. Patric Verrone, the president of the Writers Guild of America-West, which recently ended a 100-day strike, was among those calling for more Internet regulation. “When your employers are the same companies that control the media, it’s hard to get your message out,” Verrone said. Lost on him, apparently, was the simple fact that the Internet, in all its non-neutral glory, did allow him to get the message out. He testified mostly to the success the guild had with blog postings, e-mail and videos. Also lost on him was the irony that the writers strike centered on compensation for the added value their work gives studios when it’s used on the Web. Verrone, on the other hand, seeks rules that would coerce service providers to offer Web-based management services–that themselves would add measurable value to the work of his fellow guild members as well as the studios–for free.