I was not one of those that felt Ronald Reagan did not have the stuff to be President of the United States. He was older than I and “Bed Time for Bonzo” was not on my must watch list. Even Sonny Bono didn’t cause much of a blink for me. He and Cher had split up seven years before he ran for the US House of Representatives. However, there was something different about Al Franken. I knew of him when he was a writer for Saturday Night Live (SNL) and then one of the on screen comedians. Al Franken was always over the top and never less so when he wrote “Rush Limbaugh is Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations”. When you considered Al Franken, you knew he was a smart man but there was no way to take him seriously and then he successfully ran for the Senate from the state of Minnesota.
Senator Al Franken has embraced the issue of Net Neutrality from his first months in office. He is a staunch liberal and his approach to Net Neutrality is to be against the large service providers that he refers to as “big corporations”. Recently, Mr. Franken was in Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival where he was a featured speaker. He did correctly identify that Comcast and Verizon were opposed to the FCC rules on Net Neutrality and he may have even been correct in saying "The one thing that big corporations have that we don't is the ability to purchase favorable political outcomes.” But his desired result for Net Neutrality would be the wrong thing. (While I work for Broadvox, please note this is my opinion and does not represent the company’s position on Net Neutrality.)
Like so many that sit on the edges of political thought, extreme left and right, Mr. Franken sees only a sky is falling scenario. It is the big corporations against the little consumer and the “independent creative community.” That is not exactly correct. The issue can be a bit complicated to describe but I suggest that the battle between Comcast and Level 3 over transporting Netflix streaming video is a pretty good example of the problem. Heavy Internet users can clog the proverbial Internet highway. Should they pay the same flat monthly usage fees as low/infrequent users of the Internet? It seems un-American to mandate a single price for a product regardless of consumption. Therefore, I do support tiered pricing of the Internet based upon usage and applications. However, I also insist that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Content Deliverers cannot be biased in how they transport traffic. VoIP, video and gaming traffic, if paid for, should be at the same priority as any other traffic. There should be no risk of delayed packets or disruption of the application.
While I may disagree with the Honorable Al Franken’s position, I find his opposition to Verizon and Comcast important. His passion for keeping the Internet as an open and freely accessed medium is commendable. The way we use the Internet is evolving. Regulations and laws affecting the Internet must be carefully considered so as to not negatively impact that evolution. I welcome Mr. Franken to the war and I approve his defense of the consumer. I only hope he also understands that supporting the evolution of the Internet, VoIP, and Unified Communications is not without cost. ISPs, Application Service Providers and broadband carriers must make investments and see profits in order to provide universal access and ubiquity.
Have a great weekend and I’ll have a new recipe for you on Monday.