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Scott McNealy on Net Neutrality

Scott McNealy, ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems (SUNW) talking about Net Neutrality (term defined) (my opinions here) in an interview with the Washington Post:

I don’t think the network is anywhere near built out to the capability that we need it to be built. And when you start wanting to do full-motion video, and do the kinds of simulations in real-time market places, and all the things that we want to go do, do the surveillance and the audit trail and all the other things we want to do, the network ain’t there yet. And it’s going to require lots of R&D and anything that kind of blows up the movement forward of the network, I think, takes out not only the network service providers but also the content creators. So if I had to err in the short run, I would probably say, let’s just make sure we don’t screw up the investment in the network.

So, am I nervous about the issue? Absolutely. Whenever the legislators are involved, I think we all ought to pay attention….. Now, each side will negotiate very hard because there is a lot at stake here so I think as long as the government enforces antitrust policy aggressively, which basically ensures that consumers have a choice, we don’t have a real net neutrality issue.

I have a love/hate releationship with McNealy’s opinions. This is a case where I agree wholeheartedly. Regardless of business opinions, I think he is a good person and a great leader.

I’m going to miss have McNealy in the industry as he kept the computer business interesting long after things go commoditized. It will be neat to see where he ends up – it wouldn’t surprise me to see him end up at a Carrier- prefereably a Bell, where his personality might help spur a more innovative culture.

Discussion

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  1. I am not sure McNealy’s position is consistent though. Here is why: why charge differently for content? So that some content goes faster than some other. Why would you do this: so that you don’t build new infrastructure.

    An analogy to explain: you have congestion on your freeway, but you refuse to build new freeways. What do you do: you put a carpool lane, or a toll lane. You pay more, so you move faster. But the underlying fact is: the provider did not build new infrastructure. When I was working in QoS for IP networks, you would see graphs from marketing which would show the CAPEX for improving the network with and without QoS. The two lines would go up, but with different slopes, the QoS one growing slower.

    That’s what the operators are facing right now. Bandwidth demand grows all the time. Net neutrality ensures that they have to pull down more pipes to satisfy the demand, because they have to bring the best effort up, since it is the same for all. Doing away with net neutrality ensures they don’t pull the fiber and only charge more to ensure the same QoS as demand increases.

    So back the McNealy’s quote: he says “don’t screw up the investment in the network” but he also says “as long as we enfore anti-trust, there is no net neutrality issue”. Which is not true: do away with net neut, and you will screw up the investment, as you provide an incentive to do nothing.

    Posted by cedichou | May 4, 2006, 1:36 PM