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Is Bill Gates distancing Microsoft further from ItsOurNet's Net neutrality position?

Listening to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, in a podcast interview with Richard Scoble at the CES show, Microsoft clearly is no longer singing from the ItsOurNet hymnal on net neutrality.

  • This has to be disconcerting to the ItsOurNet coalition coming on the heels of Microsoft leaving the ItsOurNet coalition during the FCCs’ review of the AT&T-Bell South merger.

When Microsoft withdrew its support and funding from ItsOurNet in the late fall, it indicated that it intended to rejoin ItsOurNet after the merger review was complete.

  • Well it’s been 12 days since the FCC approved the merger… and Microsoft has yet to rejoin ItsOurNet…
  • It may turn out to be wishful thinking on my part that Microsoft has indeed reconsidered its position on net neutrality.

Whether or not Microsoft stays out of ItsOurNet or not, it is clear from this podcast interview that the head of Microsoft does not agree with the standard ItsOurNet line on NN

  • When you review my good faith transcription of the last few minutes of the interview that were spent on NN, you will likely be struck by the context, and the approach Mr. Gates takes – it is not like the other ItsOurNet leaders: Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon or IAC.
  • Gates’ new thinking on NN sounds to me a lot like he has had an in-depth discussion with John Chambers, the Chairman of Cisco. Mr. Gates words and arguments now appear to be very simpatico with Cisco’s more balanced NN position.  
    • Most telling are Mr. Gates first thoughts and statements.
    • They were very pro-network investment and included none of the standard, fear-mongering  rhetoric or verbiage typical of ItsOurNet.
    • This is all the more remarkable, because this was an interview with techies and bloggers employing a blog-podcast, which is usually a very pro-NN type of audience and medium. Gates was not being "politically correct." 
    • It is also worth noting that net neutrality was the last and not first topic discussed in a 40+ minute interview with the world’s richest man.

Below is my good faith attempt to represent a transcription of Mr. Gates comments in the podcast, which you can hear and check for yourself at this link:  http://www.podtech.net/scobleshow/technology/1309/exclusive-lunch-with-ces-bloggers-and-bill-gates The bolding is my emphasis.

Question:  How will net neutrality affect Microsoft’s business?

“Microsoft wants people to build Internet infrastructure that has the ability to feed high definition video to every screen in your house. So we want the incentive to be there for people to build that new network. And we want that network to be something -- that the content from everyone is treated in a reasonably equal way…
…We need both. We need content to see there is an open platform to keep them innovating and we need new networks to be built.
There are regulatory models in Europe where high capacity networks just won’t be built because they have set equalization as a sublease rate that means you just aren’t going to do a high definition interactive network. You are not going to get the enablement that comes with it. This is complicated stuff.
Supposedly AT&T agreed to some flavor of this. But every country is different on this.
This is a very complex thing.
In its purest form, you eliminate the incentive to build better networks. You have to be careful about that.�

Question: Is Microsoft on the side of the consumer?  

“Who else represents both sides? Most people are either a network company that doesn’t want a restriction or a content company that does not understand the disincentive to building out the networks. So there were tons of things proposed that would have made the U.S. just like Europe. So these are complex issues.
What a consumer wants in terms of – is my network gives me access to everything but its also very high speed. That’s the ideal for us.
And as a big company in the industry it is incumbent on us – and part of our responsibility to learn the complex issues and not let the extremes do things to block what really should happen.

The U.S. did have a problem in the 1990’s in the 1996 Telecom Act that it has an assumption that subleasing could do this magic thing and how did that go? Why is Korea ahead of us? Anyway it’s a complex issue.� End of Quotes.

Does this sound like Gates is an ardent supporter of ItsOurNet to you? Either Gates is not privy to its Washington office's embrace of ItsOurNet, or Microsoft is getting more nuanced in its net neutrality position.

  • It would be helpful to everyone if Microsoft made its position on Net Nuetrality and its relationship with ItsOurNet more clear.  So?
Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths