Why Net Neutrality Matters

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DJR12

I agree that in an ideal situation, letting the market work itself out would be the way to go. But the cable industry is far from an ideal situation. There is no competition when it comes to cable. Services areas have been carved in stone, and if you don't like the cable company in your area, your options are to switch to an entirely different form of service (you could go with satellite for your TV programming, but that doesn't help with your broadband) or move.

I'd be happy to go with FiOS where I live -- but it's not offered. I don't have a south view so I can't do satellite. Precisely because the government intervened, I can use my TiVo box instead of the cable company's vastly inferior offering -- thanks to cable cards and (buggy, imperfect) tuning adapters to deal with switched digital video. What are the odds that I'd have that option without a government mandate? I'm guessing close to zero.

As far as I'm concerned, any company that is willing to enjoy the benefits of a territorial monopoly has no leg to stand on in complaining about regulation. Without net neutrality or some equivalent, I'll be stuck with whatever content offerings my cable company sees fit to provide. Where's the market incentive there? We don't need cable companies to be content providers. There are plenty of companies to download content from already. If they want to compete for content dollars on a level playing field, fine. But the moment they start tilting the field in their own favor, somebody needs to step in.

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thehaggard

Don't you want to bet that nothing will change for you and that the cable companies with their money will use net neutrality to tilt the field to their favor even more so? The future is always something new, and waiting for the company is indeed a long wait for a boat that doesn't come, but regulation will make sure that the little start up that comes along to give you service in your area will be squashed by a statute that says "neutrality" but means "control of the industry by those who were there first."

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ilikeimac

I thought this article made an interesting point about Level 3's duplicity, being a Content Delivery Network ("CDN") for its customers (Netflix) but presenting itself as an internet backbone to other networks (Comcast): http://gigaom.com/2010/11/29/forget-net-neutrality-comcast-might-break-the-web/

We're used to paying ISP's for internet access from the endpoints of our homes and offices, but I guess it's a lot fuzzier to figure out who pays whom when two networks connect to each other.

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thehaggard

No, free enterprise corrects and government regulation stifles. The customer's wallet changes business and government intervention protects corporations at the customers expense... it always look "fair" and "equal" but always comes out as dumbing everyone down to one least common denominator. Net Neutrality is frought with unintended consequences that will more likely bottleneck development and end real competition in favor of a "cookie-cutter, every business model is exactly the same, innovation is not within the boundaries of the statutes," boring industry. Ever notice that all cars look exactly the same once industry regulation was the acceptable norm? Where did all the dome houses and underground dwellings go? Right into the Uniform Code of Building Construction.

Unlimited freedom of the market is innovative and controlled by what works and what gets paid for. Regulation is propped up and defends itself against new innovation so that the old guard doesn't have to face competition from new ideas.

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dougstrickland

In a limited sense, you're right. The free market works things out eventually - but only as the product or technology becomes commodity - meaning that there are so may competitors that the effectiveness of manufacture or service delivery becomes the providers focus, providing a cheaper, better product.

However with the financial and business state of the Internet still being worked out, Comcast - as well as other ISP's, don't have enough competition for the free market to affect the price. For many people in the middle of the country, they simply don't have a choice of providers.

Were there 30 different providers that I have access to, they have to work against one another, and they realize that price is one of the key considerations of the consumers decision. I think my call with them would go something like "$20 a month for 20Mb/20Mb?!? You're nuts! Bob's Internet has the exact same thing for $9.99!!" How long do you think their sales department would have to hear that before they found a way to be a more efficient, value-oriented supplier?

So, simply stated, demand has not saturated supply yet.

Lastly, Comcast is represented by lobbyists. I'm not. The way that large corporations behave (and nearly gain the authority) more like governments than they are like a business, then someone needs to be on my side.

This is similar to the labor market, and the role of unions. In many industries where demand vastly exceeds supply, for example for specialized talent in mobile application development, the power is in the hands of the few that have the skill. Unions are unnecessary because they don't protect against exploitation. Here, the engineer has control. Compare that to a farmworker, or other lower skilled jobs, and unions are important to maintaining the power balance. How many times has a retail clerk been told "there a line out the door of people to replace you"? How many times has a Sr. level Java developer? How much do you think a retail clerk makes compared to an engineer?

If you don't like the price of Comcast you can indeed choose with your wallet.

The choice is simply not to participate. Thats not fair. It's not equal, and little will change it without some form of regulation.

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