New Circular Logic Doesn’t Justify Wireless Net Neutrality

April 20, 2009

There is a new circular logic argument being offered that in effect takes fast rural deployment of broadband hostage to the net neutrality movement’s latest demands for net neutrality to be put above all other broadband or Internet goals.

  • A post by Stacey Higginbotham of Gigaom effectively connects Free Press’ latest demand that the FCC apply net neutrality to wireless for the first time and argues in her post that if wireless providers are allowed to apply for stimulus grants for rural broadband without mandated net neutrality, they somehow could control what a subscriber could access on the Internet.

Hopefully, the FCC, NTIA and RUS folks that are working on this won’t waste time running in circles trying to make sense out of this new circular logic.

  • It is not a new argument. And it is not logical.
  • It’s simply an assertion dressed up as an argument that net neutrality should be the supreme concern, and come before, and be above, all other broadband or other priorities, like economic growth, job creation, broadband deployment/investment etc.

How is this circular logic that doesn’t make sense?

  • First, this Higgenbotham hypothesis assumes that the reason for the rural grants is to implement net neutrality.
    • The purpose of the stimulus is to quickly stimulate the economy and job growth — and to get broadband to unserved and underserved areas as quickly as possible.
  • Second, adding new burdens and barriers to serving the hardest and most expensive segment of the nation to serve, would be highly counter-productive as it would add costs, slow deployment and limit participation.
  • Third, by arguing for applying mandated net neutrality to wireless for the first time, it could have the perverse outcome of making it unworkable and uneconomic for wireless to serve as an option for rural deployment under the stimulus package.
    • Not only would this prevent rural areas from benefiting from the technology that may best serve a specific area’s needs,
    • It would also have the perverse effect of ensuring that wireless technologies could not qualitiatively operate as necessary to be considered effective competitors or substitutes for wireline technologies.

The task of getting broadband to all Americans quickly in a severe recession is difficult enough without counter-productive and unwarranted demands for mandated wireless net neutrality.

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