Silicon Valley, Wake Up and Smell the Net Neutrality

Susan Crawford

The issues of network neutrality and broadband reclassification are big ones for Silicon Valley, but you’d never know it given the head-in-the-sand response from certain executives whose very livelihood depends on their ability to send whatever content they develop to millions of consumers over broadband pipes. Admittedly there are some ardent supporters of network neutrality who think having regulations that forbid ISPs from discriminating against lawful traffic is a good thing, but overall, the region’s response to net neutrality is pretty lame. And few even understand the current efforts to neuter the FCC through the broadband reclassification fight.

Yet interacting with the government, however flawed it may be, is important. The interests of telecommunications and cable firms is not in innovation — it’s in milking big profits out of their existing infrastructure while making minimal investments. That’s the antithesis of innovation. These guys have read the “Innovator’s Dilemma” and realized they didn’t have a dilemma because they own expensive infrastructure that others can’t easily duplicate. Their response didn’t have to be innovate or die, because if push comes to shove, they can kill problematic services through pricing, lawsuits or obsfucation.

And I can assure you the telcos are treating net neutrality and the reclassification debate it as if they were at war. Which means that if Silicon Valley doesn’t show up to fight, Washington is going to buckle. Susan Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School who co-led the FCC Agency Review team for the Obama-Biden transition team, spoke on the topic last week. She detailed the lobbying spending by ISPs and the impact of the Comcast (s cmcsa) merger with NBC (s ge) on online video, and begged Silicon Valley to not take open Internet access for granted. It won’t be the last time you hear you someone do that.

Want to get educated on the topic? Here’s a good list of stories to help:

Comcast vs. FCC: Federal Court Questions FCC’s Ability to Regulate Broadband

How the FCC Plans to Regulate Broadband

Why Net Neutrality Is Too Important to Leave Up to the ISPs

The New Net-Neutrality Debate: What’s the Best Way to Discriminate? (GigaOM Pro sub req’d)