October 30, 2009 8:41AM

VOIP News: Cato Is Tops! But Let’s Clarify Something

Though I hadn’t heard of it before, I was delighted to see a publication called VOIP News cite the Cato Institute as one of 15 “Greatest Enemies of Net Neutrality.” As VOIP News says, we are indeed a “voice of reason during political debates.”

Alas, I’m selectively quoting. What they actually said, snidely, was that Cato is a “hired voice of reason during political debates, because of its pseudo‐​academic affiliations.” (I don’t know why they italicized “voice of reason” — I always thought Reason was the voice of reason.)

But my selective quotation is as accurate as the selective research that VOIP News did for this fluffy hit piece. You see, Cato recently published a lengthy paper that articulates the benefits of net neutrality (referred to as the end‐​to‐​end principle).

Where do you find that in the paper? Here’s the first paragraph of the executive summary:

An important reason for the Internet’s remarkable growth over the last quarter century is the “end‐​to‐​end” principle that networks should confine themselves to transmitting generic packets without worrying about their contents. Not only has this made deployment of internet infrastructure cheap and efficient, but it has created fertile ground for entrepreneurship. On a network that respects the end‐​to‐​end principle, prior approval from network owners is not needed to launch new applications, services, or content.

The paper expresses well‐​founded concerns about net neutrality regulation—taking a good engineering practice and making a mandate of it for lawyers and bureaucrats to implement. From the executive summary’s third paragraph:

New regulations inevitably come with unintended consequences. Indeed, today’s network neutrality debate is strikingly similar to the debate that produced the first modern regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission. Unfortunately, rather than protecting consumers from the railroads, the ICC protected the railroads from competition by erecting new barriers to entry in the surface transportation marketplace. Other 20th‐​century regulatory agencies also limited competition in the industries they regulated. Like these older regulatory regimes, network neutrality regulations are likely not to achieve their intended aims.

It’s tough sledding, working through most of a one‐​page executive summary. But many publications go that far in researching the pieces they publish.

I do sincerely appreciate the nod to our prominence in this debate. I hope VOIP News does a better job of portraying where we stand and why in the future.