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Too often, the discussion of why we need to protect the open Internet degenerates into a stale debate about regulation versus the free market. In fact, it’s impossible for innovation to continue apace without some basic rules of the road to protect that innovation.
The open Internet was the principle leading the development of the Internet as the first open global communications network. And it helped drive the development of a host of Internet applications like Facebook, YouTube, and Skype. There would have been no motivation for the developers of these applications to have expended time, effort, and in some cases, their own financial security, in pursuit of their vision if they weren’t guaranteed their inventions would have been able to work over any Internet connection.
. . . Leading network neutrality proposals contain numerous ambiguities that would create uncertainty for everyone in the Internet industry. Here’s just one example: the most prominent network neutrality proposal of the 2006 congressional session, known as Snowe-Dorgan, defined a “broadband service provider” as “a person or entity that controls, operates, or resells and controls any facility used to provide broadband service to the public, whether provided for a fee or for free.” Does this mean that the owner of a coffee shop with a WiFi connection would be subject to FCC regulation of its firewall configuration? One would hope not, but that’s what the language seems to suggest. The same point can be made with respect to hotels, Internet cafes, airports, and even individuals who choose to make their home WiFi connection available to their neighbors.