With all the writing we've been doing about the Federal Communications Commission, net neutrality and the whole idea of regulating the Internet, you'd think I'd understand the arguments on either side a little better. But it's complicated. So I took the opportunity to speak to a few people who've spent more time on the issues and asked them to give me a hand.
Why are the two sides so diametrically opposed? Is it just a question of money? No, says Brad Johnson, VP at SystemExperts. In response to my e-mail, he summed up the debate this way:
Internet pioneers and purists also want unfettered access to all possible content because that's how the Internet was formed: based on openness and trust. From their point of view, there is no reason to restrict or manage content. Any kind of restriction or management is really a form of censorship.
From an operational point of view, the carriers want the right to manage content because the fact is, it's getting harder and harder to provide the bandwidth that people want or need for today's applications and the need for more bandwidth is only growing. This isn't about censorship, per se, but about being efficient with how they use their telecommunications infrastructure both now and in the future as the demand for more data increases.
How then, will there ever be a meeting of the minds? As usual, Johnson says, it will take compromise to find something with which both sides are satisfied. He said:
The fact is, there are a lot of interested parties in this debate...The result is likely to be a series of negotiations, compromises, and proposals that span geographical, political, financial, and other powerful boundaries.
Here's hoping it won't take so long to reach those compromises that the point becomes moot.