Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Free markets fairly regulated

The greatest compliment to the internet is that when in trouble totalitarian regimes try to shut it down - and often do not quite succeed.

There was a time (and it was pretty well enshrined in many early AOL business plans) when people questioned the need for speed - Sir Peter Bonfield - then big cheese at BT - famously did not think broadband services would have a demand.

It turns out that speed matters for video and interactive games - but probably never will for email / twitter and text based activity. As encoding codecs improve Skype may well be able to operate at lower bandwidths.

It is reasonable for charges to be imposed for higher quality services (like the toll roads) but the basic level of service must be very carefully protected because the profiteers will sense genuine need in this area and try to gouge customers - as the utilities companies in the UK do now.

Therefore 100% net neutrality is unrealistic - but the regulators and politicians need to ensure they really understand the issues and protect basic services - and not just pay attention to the quality of the restaurant the lobbyists take them to.