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Computer Science Professor, Former FCC Official Warns Against Net Neutrality

There are too many lawyers talking about net neutrality and not enough engineers; this was the message by a panel of computer science experts, a law professor and an economist Friday morning. They mostly warned against the potential constraints that net neutrality rules would have on network engineering.

David Farber, a professor of computer science and policy at Carnegie Mellon, said the FCC's proposal for new net neutrality rules could hamper innovation on the Web. Farber, who runs a popular e-mail list on technology issues and is a former chief technology officer for the FCC, said that Internet networks have always prioritized certain traffic and that new rules proposed by the Federal Communication Commission to try to stop discrimination on cable, DSL and wireless networks could constrain operators and tech companies from properly managing their networks.

Farber, who spoke on a panel about net neutrality at the think tank Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, called the discussions around net neutrality "religious debates" that haven't taken into consideration the technological challenges faced by engineers, particularly those building the next generation of services for mobile broadband. Farber co-penned a piece in 2007 that criticized net neutrality.

"We have to create an environment where innovation is possible," he said via a online video feed into ITIF's offices. "The marketplace determines what is acceptable or not, and so far that has gotten us a long way."

Such concerns are expected to be part of the FCC's review of network management practices, Colin Crowell, a senior adviser at the FCC, has said. When FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski introduces the proposal Oct. 22, a process will begin to explore complicated questions of what kinds of network management are reasonable for network operators.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 25, 2009; 1:41 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
Previous: Worth Reading: Fast Forward Opines, Breaks Down Net Neutrality | Next: Update: AT&T Accuses Google of Violating Telecom Laws; Google Rejects Claims


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Duh. I mentioned this in earlier posts. Why would I want to improve a service or my infrastructure that I offer, when others who do not only don't pay me for the service of using my bandwidth, but impacts the bandwidth of my paying customers?

They must think you're stupid.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | September 25, 2009 9:42 PM

This article doesn't include all of Professor Farber's very insightful comments regarding Internet regulation and innovation. Here is what he said on the subject:

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Many of the "religious" discussions that take place in the "net neutrality" world offer the potential of having the technical community faced with this very difficult environment: "Go do your designs, but be careful. Because retroactively, what you do -- some regulator might say -- is not 'correct.'" It's very hard to work in that environment. Especially when -- as you all know -- Washington is not noted [for having] organizations which are loaded with technologists. So, there's a real potential hazard [to] your ability to innovate. And that's what worries me a lot about the directions we're going....

I think the most important thing is that we have to create an environment where innovation is possible, where experimentation is possible, and where constraints are not imposed on the [engineering] field [by] any regulatory authority. Let the marketplace determine what's acceptable or not; so far, that has gotten us a long way. I'm not a true believer that the marketplace will always decide right, but after being in Washington for a year, I'm semi-convinced that I'd rather take a chance on that than [on] many of the regulatory environments.

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Wise words indeed.

Posted by: squirma | September 26, 2009 7:10 PM

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