False Pundits, Forbes and Broadband

The Wikipedia profile of Phil Kerpen, a Beltway insider and policy director for Americans for Prosperity, should be enough of a reason for us to not take him too seriously. At least not when it comes to issues pertaining to technology, network neutrality and broadband.

His politics notwithstanding, his column over on Forbes.com, Internet Super Traffic Jam, blaming network neutrality for what he thinks is a coming traffic jam is just asinine piece of drivel, which doesn’t take into account how networks are built and how technology has evolved.

Kerpen uses a study by Deloitte & Touche, which says that the Internet backbone speeds are going to be reduced to a crawl if there isn’t substantial infrastructure investments and deployments, to argue against net neutrality legislation. DT, Accenture, McKinsey and others showed their true worth when they advised companies like Enron. So why take them seriously! But that’s a different rant.

The infrastructure investments in the backbone have been an ongoing process. Level 3 and Global Crossing, despite all their issues, have been using technologies such as boxes made by Infinera to lower their costs, and add more capacity. Since Kerpen doesn’t actually link to the study, we are left to wonder what his conclusions are based on. It looks like DT doesn’t even believe there’s a problem, since another research paper there predicts that “unrelenting progress in processing power, network bandwidth and storage capacity” will let electronic games proliferate.

What you’re seeing in Kerpen’s missive is another offering from the “telco chorus,” a group of bloviators who are paid either by conservative advocacy operations (like Kerpen’s Americans for Prosperity), or by groups indirectly supported by telco contributions. Other groups who make similar arguments to Kerpen’s have been outed before, and their goals of trying to provide “expert” or “unbiased” opinion are pretty transparent.

It’s surprising that a generally reputable outlet like Forbes is giving airtime to someone like Kerpen and his by-the-Ma-Bell book net neutrality opinions (service providers need incentives to invest!). Even if Ed Markey & Co. get a net neutrality bill to the President’s desk this year, there’s no guarantee it will be signed. The only thing stopping providers from building the network of the future is their decisions to spend money elsewhere, like in spending $89 billion to buy BellSouth and its networks of the past.

Luckily, the industry has innovators like Cisco building its CRS-1, and deployers like the folks behind the 10-gigabit Internet2, who are helping build the bigger pipes of the future. The “Internet is falling” argument is just another telco talking point, tailor-made to add more FUD instead of clarity to the debate. Too bad Forbes doesn’t have the time to find writers who actually know what they are talking about.

(Om Malik contributed to this post.)