Fred Wilson has a nice post on net neutrality. Here is the gist of what he has to say:
Somehow net neutrality got painted as "regulating the Internet" when it is really all about not regulating the Internet. Net Neutrality is about keeping the way the Internet works today; an open Internet where innovation is allowed and freedom reigns.
While I agree, here is how I think of it: The internet can only exist with the consumption of limited public resources. A clear example of this is its use of broadband spectrum. Spectrum exists in nature, but there is only so much of it. In order for all of us to benefit from it, we have permitted many companies to exploit the resource (and they need to get a return – which they are doing).
Unlike oil, for example, we don’t know how this resource may be used in the future. In the last 20 years the uses have both expanded and changed dramatically. In the case of oil it is still basically electricity, heat and gas (not much change since way before WWII). The story of the last 20 years is that the internet has grown to bring ever greater numbers of people into it for ever greater and more diverse uses.
To permit a few companies with a vested interest to control a limited public resource would put an end to the growth and evolution of the internet. Here part of the comment I put on Fred Wilson’s post:
Here is a bit of a tangent -- a different kind of tragedy of the commons. Would your cow get any grass if a few big herd owners were allowed to control access to the commons? The commons needs to be available to all on some fair basis. It can't be controlled by a few whose economic interest is to exact a toll for use of a resource that isn't theirs in the first place. (I know carriers (and others) invested in the infrastructure and need a return so it isn't as simple as I am making it out, but this is the gist of it.)
BTW: Metcalfe’s law says that the value of a communications network grows exponentially with the number of users. According to Wikipedia it can be state as follows: Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). To the extent that we put an end to growth in the internet, we will pay for that with lost value.