Department of Justice: Caution On Net Regulation

By September 7, 2007Communications

A helpful and plainly worded statement from the Department of Justice on regulating the Internet — “net neutrality” — in a filing responding responding to the FCC’s notice of inquiry on broadband practices. DOJ’s news release argues that the market demands differentiated products and services, and differentiated pricing allows the private sector to raise capital to building necessary broad-band infrastructure. The Post Office doesn’t charge the same for mailing different size packages at different speeds.

No one challenges the benefits to society of these differentiated products,” the Department stated in its filing. “Whether or not the same type of differentiated products and services will develop on the Internet should be determined by market forces, not regulatory intervention.” Despite the FCC’s call for specific information on harmful broadband activities, the Department noted that comments filed in response to this Notice of Inquiry did not provide evidence that would suggest the existence of a widespread problem that needs to be addressed. In addition, there is no consensus on what “net neutrality” means or what should be prohibited in the name of “neutrality.”

“Even assuming that a potential danger exists, the ambiguity of what conduct needs to be prohibited raises a real possibility that regulation would prohibit some conduct that is beneficial, while failing to stop other conduct that may be harmful,” the Department stated.

“The FCC should be highly skeptical of calls to substitute special economic regulation of the Internet for free and open competition enforced by the antitrust laws,” the Department said in its filing. “Marketplace restrictions proposed by some proponents of ‘net neutrality’ could in fact prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet, with significant negative effects for the economy and consumers.”

The filing is available here from the DOJ’s Antitrust site. (You’d think they could give a direct link.) The Computer World blog has a round-up of reporting and commentary, mostly from online denizens who think the Internet is — or should be — somehow independent of the market forces. Reuters story here.

Seems like the longer this debate goes on without regulations or new laws being effected, the better. Let progress proceed.

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