To date, I haven’t written anything about Net Neutrality. There is a good reason for this. While I am a vehemently against telecoms restricting anyone’s access to the Internet, I also dissapprove of increased government involvement in the administration and regulation of said Internet.
Last week, my friend MJ asked me for my opinion on this issue. I thought I would post my response to her.
Over the last year there has been talk, most notably by the CEO of SBC (now AT&T) (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20051031/0354228_F.shtml), accusing companies like Yahoo, Google and ebay of making money at the telecoms’ expense. This, of course, is not true since Google has to purchase connections into their facilities just like you and I purchase them into our houses. SBC also complained that they spent the capital to ‘build the pipes’ and these companies shouldn’t be able to use them. Again, this is misleading. Much of the telecom infrastructure has been funded by the US Government, for the telecoms to complain about their
capital expenditures now is a little much.
The SBC CEO’s proposed solution to this problem was to basically charge companies like Google an additional fee. If Google refuses to pay SBC could restrict or stop all traffic between their customers and Google. Of course, to date, none of this has actually happened yet.
As a potential resolution to this problem a bill in support of ‘Net Neutrality’ was introduced into Congress this spring. The concept of ‘Net
Neutrality’, again in a nutshell, basically says the government will regulate the telecoms to ensure that everyone’s traffic is carried
equally. Telecoms will not be allowed to prefer connections to one website over another, or restrict phone calls over one voip service more or less than another.
Now, what do I think of all this? I think Net Neutrality in theory is a great concept, but I also think government involvement usually causes more problems that it corrects. There is enough competition for Internet service in most major areas that no one company can have a stranglehold on the market. It is unlikely that telecoms will be able to force big companies like Google and ebay to pay their extorsion fee, due to the popularity of their services, and it’s equally unlikely that they will go after small companies – not enough profit in it. I’m not aware of any actual abuses by telecoms yet, so my feeling is let’s not get the government involved until we have to – I think the market will work the problem out itself.
Since writing this response, I have had some opportunity to think further on this matter. What is increasingly disturbing is the insidiousness of companies like Google and Ebay. They are supporting Net Neutrality legislation as being better for the consumer, when what they really want to is too support their business model. What’s best for the consumer is a free market with choices, but big Internet companies are concerned that the consumer will choose poorly. To eliminate this possibility they want the government to step in and force consumers to make the right choice.
Net Neutrality is bad, not because of the concept, but because the implementation will further degrade your rights as a US citizen.