Net Neutrality Endangers Lives? Seriously?

There's been a lot of arguments for and against net neutrality, but a new report commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ratchets up the rhetoric by claiming that neutrality laws would, literally, endanger people's lives.

"Consumers would be negatively impacted by efforts to restrict network management," the report states. "In the long-term, such policies could impair the effectiveness of lifesaving telemedicine and other applications that ride the network and require connections that are jitter-free."

The paper, authored by New York Law School's Charles Davidson and Michael Santorelli, argues that the growth of online video has helped create congestion on the Web. The writers take the position that net neutrality laws would hinder ISPs' freedom to manage congestion in the most efficient way. "Net neutrality proposals center on limiting the ability of network owners to manage the content that flows over their infrastructure, thus curtailing their power to ensure that all users, from the average senior citizen checking health information online to the college student downloading movies in her dorm room, have the same ability to enjoy the Internet."



But, despite the authors' anti-regulatory stance, it's possible to write net neutrality laws that wouldn't prevent companies from deploying rational traffic management techniques. In fact, the FCC itself has said that network operators can lawfully take steps to manage congestion -- provided those measures don't arbitrarily discriminate against particular companies or applications.

It's hard to see how laws banning network operators from deciding on a whim to degrade traffic to particular sites would harm ISPs' ability to craft sensible traffic policies.

1 comment about "Net Neutrality Endangers Lives? Seriously?".
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  1. Eric Goldman from Santa Clara University School of Law, December 23, 2008 at 6 p.m.

    Net neutrality also makes small children cry. Eric.

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