No bill is better than a bad bill

Senator Stevens says that gridlock over network neutrality may derail passage of comprehensive telecom reform legislation this year. It’s remarkable that the net neutrality issue has gotten such traction in such a short period of time, especially given how little public and industry interest there was for a long time.

Though it’s not widely appreciated, the battle over what is now called network neutrality started in 1998, and the outcome was decided by 2003. The fight now is whether it’s possible to retroactively reverse that outcome. I fear it’s too late, now that networks and capital have been deployed. (Although I have some ideas which I’m in the process of articulating that might provide some hope.)

In any event, whatever one thinks of network neutrality, derailing this year’s telecom bill is a good thing. Whatever passes would almost certainly do significantly more harm than good. The phone companies are probably right that local franchise restrictions on video competition should be eliminated, but they’ll get there anyway. The legislation would just speed up their deployment process. Other than that, I have a hard time seeing anything in the proposed legislation that doesn’t simply worsen an already bad situation. And passing legislation now would greatly lessen the pressure for better legislation in the near future.