The Justice Department on Thursday said Internet service providers should be allowed to charge a fee for priority Web traffic.
The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to "Net neutrality," the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user.
The Justice Department said imposing a Net neutrality regulation could hamper development of the Internet and prevent service providers from upgrading or expanding their networks. It could also shift the "entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers," the agency said in its filing.
Such a result could diminish or delay network expansion and improvement, it added.
The agency said providing different levels of service is common, efficient and could satisfy consumers. As an example, it cited that the U.S. Postal Service charges customers different guarantees and speeds for package delivery, ranging from bulk mail to overnight delivery.
I tend to agree with the idea that users ought to be able to pay for various levels of service as a matter of principle. On the other hand, I am concerned with the incentive that carriers have to "starve" a best effort tier to drive users to higher service levels. How would you go about managing this incentive in a way that is enforceable, economically efficient and technologically feasible?
Update (2007-09-10): I found this article from CNET interesting and helpful. Did you?
Update (2007-18-09): This article takes a look at the international aspects of this debate. Also, this article raises the possibility of further Congressional action in the US