No competition? Net neutrality and a hidden agenda

The net neutrality thing keeps pinging the awareness as the FCC continues its efforts to expand its authority to include the I’net as well as the airwaves. DSLreports wonders If We Had Competition, We Might Not Need Neutrality Rules and figures “we may not be getting either.”

While it sounds nice to mandate that network service providers should treat everyone and every type of traffic the same, it is also appealing to think that businesses should be able to do what they want with their property. The rationale used for promoting net neutrality regulation is the idea that network services are a monopoly or near so and therefore need regulation much like the telephone monopoly of fifty years ago. There are two difficulties with this position. One is that there is no demonstrated problem that is to be solved by net neutrality type regulation. The other is that the monopoly does not exist, despite the presumption of the report and in some of its comments.

Most households in urban or suburban areas have the choice between the cable TV company, the telephone company, the various cell phone companies, or even some specialized wifi companies to gain access to the I’net. That is the front end competition. The backbone or infrastructure competition is not quite so visible but, again, there are a number of companies providing long haul service. These often cater to large business and use agreements to help increase bandwidth utilization. The central switches, whether for I’net routing or access to the telephone network are already quite regulated.

There is an argument against net neutrality that must be considered as well. Some sorts of I’net traffic are time sensitive. These include such things streaming video or telephony services. If they cannot be given non-neutral priority, then someone’s download of a new software distribution might well interrupt a voice conversation or make for choppy movie viewing.

A key about this topic is in the response to the news that Google and Verizon were talking to the FCC about net neutrality. Additional observations besides the colluding big corporations include the lack of caring for the end user and other such ‘big corp vs little guy’ themes. That implies an emotional rather than rational basis to the conflicts.

UPDATE: CNet has a good rundown by Berin Szoka and Adam Thierer – Just say no to Ma Bell-era Net neutrality regulation – that provides some good background on this issue.

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