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Santa Clara Net Neutrality Panel

Google's Richard Whitt, George Ou, Data Foundry's Ronald Yokubaitis,

Richard Bennett, Vuze's Jay Monahan

"The other side said: We were a company that was born and raised on innovation. We were born from the internet here in Silicon Valley. We were able to take for granted the fact that we could innovate on the network without permission from anybody - any broadband company, any potential gatekeeper of the network trying to tell us what to do. We could bring innovation directly to the users and let them sort out exactly what they wanted and what they didn’t want. Why would we muck with that? Why would we create haves and have nots on the internet?"

Naturally, Larry, Sergey, and the crew went with the second option. And more than two years later, this led to a rough morning for chief policy officer Richard Whitt. The panel also included George Ou and Richard Bennett, two networking-obsessed pals who have vehemently defended Comcast's right to throttle peer-to-peer traffic, and Whitt received more than a few harsh words from Ou.

Ou is adamant that - whether it forbids ISPs from prioritizing apps and services or it forbids them from selling prioritization - neutrality regulation would actually prevent things like video and voice from flourishing on our worldwide IP network. "If you forbid prioritization, you forbid converged networks," he said. "And if you forbid converged networks, you get a bunch of tiny networks that are designed to do very specific things. Why not merge them into one fat pipe and let the consumer pick and choose what they want to run?

"Net neutrality forbids consumer choice. The consumer can't say 'Please prioritize.'"

But Ou didn't stop there. At one point, the discussion turned to the notion of network "transparency." Comcast's greatest sin was that it didn't come clean on that BitTorrent blocking, and the panel was asked if ISPs should at least be obligated to divulge their network management techniques.

"I think pretty much all of us are for transparency. But I'm for transparency not only for the network providers but also for the applications providers," Ou said. "The only American company on this panel that's been doing bad things and not telling people is Google. [They're] filtering content in China."

Cue eye-rolling from Whitt. "George, I resent you bringing this into the discussion," he said. "But the one thing we're doing in China - on search engines based in China - is filtering certain search terms. And at the bottom of the page we have a disclaimer that says 'Warning: Your content has been filtered by the government.' That is transparency."

Whichever side you come down on, one thing's for sure: the neutrality debate is always entertaining.®

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