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Reporters' Roundtable: Net neutrality

Will business interests kill the future of the Net? Does the FCC know what it's doing? In this episode we're joined by author and frequent CNET contributor Larry Downes and CNET's Maggie Reardon.

Today we're talking about an issue that's been in the news a lot in the past few days: Net neutrality -- the concept of a network infrastructure that is nondiscriminatory when it comes to types and sources and the content of Internet traffic. To support Net neutrality is to support freedom, openness, fair competition, and economic growth, according to supporters. On the other hand, somebody's got to pay for the Internet, both its wires and its wireless towers and radios. Who should that be? And if someone's paying for it, shouldn't they have some say in what goes over their equipment? Isn't telling businesses what they have to do with their privately built infrastructure antibusiness, antigrowth, and short-sighted?

That's the fundamental argument over Net neutrality, and there are some interesting specifics being added to the dialogue. Most recently, Google and Verizon produced what the two companies want to serve as a framework for Net neutrality going forward. AT&T has endorsed this proposal. Facebook has come out against it.

Today we're going to talk about these developments, and look at Net neutrality overall. How we got to where we are, where we're going, and who the actors are in the debate.

My guests today are two regular writers on the topic. First, here in the studio, Larry Downes, a well-known writer and thinker about emerging technology and policy issues. He's the author of the books "Laws of Disruption" and "Unleashing the Killer App," and writes frequently on CNET as well as on other publications about Net neutrality.

Joining us from our New York bureau is CNET writer Maggie Reardon. Maggie reports regularly on telecommunications policy and technology issues for CNET, and was on our show most recently about a month ago when we were discussing the iPhone 4 antenna issues.

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Show notes and talking points

What is Net neutrality?

What's the alternative?

Draw the battle lines. Who are the players, what are their positions?

Discuss the FCC's rules and actions recently.

How do different governments handle this?

Google and Verizon: What did they actually say? What did they mean?

Weren't Google and Verizon at odds over Net neutrality previously? What happened?

So how is this arrangement going to kill the Internet?

Discuss the good points of the proposal (transparency).

And the bad (wireless carve-out; new services).

Why leave out wireless?

Is wireless really scarce? Aren't the airwaves, in fact, even more public than the wires in the ground?

Larry, you wrote to me earlier, "Can we talk about the politicization of NN and how that poisons the debate?" What do you mean?

Do you really think that businesses will act in the long-term best interests of the society?

The next Reporters Roundtable will be September 3. Watch my Twitter account (@Rafe) for updates on the topic. Of, if you have an idea for a show, e-mail it to me.

Get all the show notes as well as replays and downloads of the podcast on the blog.