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Friday, September 03, 2010

"What we have here is a failure to communicate": regulatory capture and neutrality

Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand. Its in retrospect amazing that net neutrality got as far as it did in Europe, where regulators are agnostic and politicians notably ambivalent towards Internet entrepreneurs and inclined to follow neo-corporate routes forwards. In the US, with its abandonment of inset competition for ISPs, and its corporate purchasing of policy on Capitol Hill, its far less surprising. It is really down to the inspired design of the non-party political and forward-viewing (at its best moments) European Commission.
The reasons why telecoms regulators such as Ofcom simply fail to appreciate the depth and scale of problems inherent in traffic management are many and I have expounded on them at great length elsewhere, but the key issue is regulatory capture. ISPs are as unlikely as turkeys to vote for Christmas, and so long as they all agree that freetards are a problem, they will have a more or less settled line in favour of throttling bandwidth, underprovisioning backhaul, lying about broadband speeds, and describing as 'unlimited' packages which are anything but, and 'reasonable use' as that which makes them a net profit. When the content players are more concerned to disconnect suspected filesharers than try to achieve an Internet-based business model, they're all pushing on an open door with regulators and politicians.
This is why it is so remarkable that a measure which is only favoured by consumers, the poor bloody infantry, the  voters, has got as far as transparency (which all economists are supposed to favour). Now lets see whether the implementation of the Directives can actually provide a decent deal for those consumers, against the combined weight of the media and telecoms industries.

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