Net Neutrality

I’ve modified my stance on Net Neutrality some since I first wrote about it, although I still think that the people will win.    But there’s an interesting debate between Tom Evslin and Richard Bennett on the topic.

After reading both of them, I am more convinced than ever that Tom is right, and Richard is wrong.  Richard’s examples and thoughts on the topic seem to perpetually work on a “bait and switch” approach – we’ll get the customer to pay for their connectivity to the Internet, then we’ll shaft them by making their favorite websites pay too. To his mind, this is ok, because they can use this money to pay for more fiber in the ground.  But I don’t find that argument compelling.
As I mention in my lengthy comment on Tom’s post, the cable and telco monopolies given them each a huge infrastructure advantage over everyone else.  An advantage that was given to them in the public interest.  If this was truly a free market, I would have no problem – I’d say “If you don’t like dial-up with Mindspring, switch to AOL”.  But the monopoly license gives us much less choice in our broadband network provider.  Why? Because we (us and our ancestors) gave them exclusive access to the soil.  They would have to be much, much more service agnostic before I would accept any such deviation from complete neutrality.

This is definitely different than how I used to feel.  But over time I’ve learned what a fundamental (and market-distorting) advantage this monopoly franchise has been to the telcos and cable cos, and I’m disinclined to give them even more advantage now.  I will reiterate – dial-up service is easily switchable, and I have no problems with dialup providers attempting to shaft their customers, because the customers have many other options available to them.   But broadband access was deliberately distorted by government force, creating a duopoly for a huge chunk of the people in this country.  While I believe that eventually innovators will obsolete the cable and telco monopolies, I am disinclined to give them even more power in the short term.

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