Monday, March 17, 2008

Network Neutrality

If you aren't conversant with the heated debates surrounding network neutrality, that probably bodes well. I will inform you. Let's take the Wiki definition, for simplicity:
Precise definitions vary, but a broadband network free of restrictions on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, on the modes of communication allowed, that does not restrict content, sites, or platforms and where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams would be considered neutral by most observers.

I've butted heads with technologically-inclined friends over this on a number of occasions. Assuming this is a good thing (I'm not entirely convinced), is this cause for government intervention, or should we just let the market work?

Basically, it boils down to whether provision of internet services constitutes a natural monopoly. There is evidence for this - landline phone services are an oft-cited example of natural monopoly. However, even in the small town of St. John's, there are competing service providers. Presumably a stable equilibrium could evolve in a competitive market, where those valuing network neutrality pay higher rates than those who couldn't care less about it.

Not only can the market be efficient, it can protect 'rights'!

Of course, even if there isn't sufficient competition to achieve this doesn't mean the government should step in, even if we are agreed network neutrality is 'good'.

POSTSCRIPT: So, Bear Stearns, eh? I'm fairly tempted to buy some Canadian banks.

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