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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4994/who-owns-the-internet/

Who Owns the Internet?

May 4, 2006 by

The main issue is not a matter of bit discrimination, multiple tiers, or even denial-of-service; rather it is a fight over private property and who owns the cornucopia of wires, cables, fibers and network infrastructure spanning the continent. Unfortunately, due in large part to State intervention throughout the past century, this is a vague and nebulous area with many seemingly gray regions. Complete privatization is the answer. FULL ARTICLE


Vince Daliessio May 4, 2006 at 8:54 am

BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow had a piece on this yesterday, and expressed some very free-market sentiments;


“I remain skeptical of the idea that this is a problem with a regulatory solution. The FCC is slow, often captured, and breathtakingly dumb about technology (this is the agency that passed the initial Broadcast Flag rule, after all). Asking them to write a set of rules describing “neutrality” and then enforce them seems like a recipe for trouble to me….

…Trying to write a regulation — or even comprehensive best practices — for a “neutral” network is going to be really hard. Getting it wrong could mean screwing things up even worse — imagine if the FCC could be convinced to create a neutrality rule that preserved Akamai’s business-model but punished their innovative competitors.

The plans to put toll-roads on the Net are terrible and we need to do something about them. I just don’t know what we should do. ”

I wrote to him;

“I hope the internet-using public, and the public at large come to realize the truth of what you are saying. After all, the FCC was created by a cabal of government and business interests for their mutual benefit, and not ours. Both broadcasting and telecom development was retarded for 70 and over 100 years respectively by fascist-merchantilist monopolies that have cost US consumers literally trillions of excess dollars. We must learn from the history of communications regulation, or else we are doomed to repeat it.

Any solution for net neutrality worthy of the name must both preserve private-property rights and exclude federal and state meddling. (This includes ‘deregulation’ that serves to preserve monopoly, like the Bell breakup did). Otherwise we will end up with an internet controlled by a few large companies completely immune to the anti-monopolistic influence of the free market.

To put it another way, any regulatory regime that is concocted will be constructed by industry and government in concert. They will simply preserve the control of the internet by Big Cable and the Big Baby Bells in amber, preventing entry by any outside competition, and will perpetuate for all time exactly the kind of monopoly profiteering we need to avoid.”

anon May 4, 2006 at 9:14 am

The reason so many people are upset about this is because many of the current bandwidth contracts were signed at a time where “network neutrality” was understood as part of the contract: I pay you $X and you agree to move a certain about of information at a certain rate at certain times over a certain period.

A while back, the government used its regulatory powers to change the meaning of these contracts so that different types of information could be billed differently (although this has nothing to do with scarcity and is a blatent violation of existing contracts).

Understandably the people negatively impacted by the intervention are upset. However, as is typical, instead of being angry at the government for rewriting their contracts, they are angry at the telecom companies.

Vince Daliessio May 4, 2006 at 9:20 am

Contracts are a staple of property rights. Rewriting contracts (changing their terms) is a staple of government coercion, as well as influence by dominant corporations. Why are we continually surprised by this?

Stephen W. Carson May 4, 2006 at 2:11 pm

This story has been submitted to digg.com: Digg it!

Bob Danielson May 4, 2006 at 3:12 pm

“In the end however, it is still their network and their property to use as they wish.”

Tim, I wonder if you would entertain this possibility: there is a difference between property accumulated as the result of decades of astute competition, and property accumulated as the result of decades of congenial regulation and rent-seeking.

Tim Swanson May 4, 2006 at 5:53 pm

Mr. Danielson, I started a new thread to answer your question: http://blog.mises.org/archives/005001.asp

Michael Blanchard May 4, 2006 at 11:53 pm

I dugg it

David Cordeiro May 5, 2006 at 8:11 am

Part of the reason that metering for service quality has become an issue is because we now CAN. In the 1990′s IP Routers knew very little about the contents of the packets they were routing and it was easiest for carriers to set up fairly simple peering arrangements.

With MPLS, however, we now have a means to discriminate between packets and create offerings with different quality of service. This is not an altogether bad thing for consumers or enterprise customers.

Perhaps the parallel to toll roads is not a bad one. Before the days of automated tolls, perhaps it was too difficult for private companies to build roads and recoup their investment. The result of course were public roads clogged with traffic at peak hours.

Now that technology can discriminate between cars private companies can charge a premium to those drivers willing to pay for peak times and a discount to those willing to adjust their schedule. The end effect should be a far more efficient use of the resource that was impossible without the metering technology.

As an aside, there have been many attempts to create utility metering that is sufficiently time sensitive to price electricity usage higher during peak hours and less during off peak. I don’t know where these efforts stand today, but they should also improve the utilization of scarce energy assets.

liberty May 5, 2006 at 6:23 pm

I am against anti-trust and government regulation almost 100% of the time. In fact this is the one example I know of where I am not so sure that the government is wrong. I don’t find the arguments here convincing.

The problem is that the internet is a network of carriers that carry content across a common space. Even if I have many choices of providers in a free market, if they each are able to offer bandwidth to their highest bidder and restrict the flow of information from the rest, then regardless of who I choose, the small internet sites without a lot of money will impossible to reach and my dollars for a chosen provider cannot affect that, because the information might be restricted further upstream. It is the unique nature of the shared network that separates this example.

There is nothing you can compare in terms of a common network that doesn’t itself even require upkeep outside of the private links. Even a highway requires upkeep, phone lines, etc. The internet is made up of individual private links
already maximizing profit without using the common network to do so.

To prevent them from abusing the common network does not prevent the private links from otherwise maximizing profit and the abuse would absolutely hurt the common network which is an emergent feature of the individual nodes.

Som May 5, 2006 at 11:38 pm

Well if there’s any confusion left over from the definition of property right over internet and webspace, read Roderick T Long’s essay on the emergence of common or “quaii-public” property in a libertarian society, alot of it applies to the internet web space as well, and any government intervention in this natural process can only favor one side at the expense of other (most) users.

Chris Cantwell April 28, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Don’t we as taxpayers have any ownership rights of the satellites and framework that these telecommunication companies use (that we funded with taxes & the military produced)?

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