Net Neutrality: Battle of the Corporate Titans


Net neutrality is often portrayed as a fight over whether or not we want big corporations to control the Internet. But the truth is that there are big corporations on both sides of the debate. From the Wall Street Journal:

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission made good on its promise to push new rules that would require Internet providers such as AT&T to deliver Web traffic without delay.

Broadly, that means cable and phone companies couldn't block or slow access to services from Google, Netflix or others that are a drain on their networks or could compete with their businesses.But as the details of the new rules are hammered out in coming months, AT&T and Google are ramping up efforts to ensure the FCC doesn't impose rules that could hurt their profits or expansion plans.

Plenty of lobbyists have made their concerns about the FCC's proposal known to their political allies over the past few weeks. But AT&T lobbyists were particularly active, swarming Capitol Hill and state houses, prompting a bipartisan mix of governors, congressmen and senators to send worried letters to the FCC. Two big labor unions have taken out newspaper ads attacking the new rules.

"Google to date has gotten relatively a free pass that they're somehow promoting the public good on net neutrality as opposed to, what I see, is that they're trying to entrench their business model," said Robert Quinn, AT&T's senior regulatory lawyer in Washington. Google responded this week with letters of support from dozens of technology-company CEOs and venture capitalists.

Cato's Jim Harper says:

It is clear that the debate is about one set of corporate interests battling another set of corporate interests about the Internet, each seeking to protect or strengthen its business model. The FCC is surfing the debate pursuing a greater role for itself, meaning more budget and power.

Tim Lee's paper, The Durable Internet, dispells the idea that owners of Internet infrastructure can actually control the Internet. The better approach to "net neutrality" is to let Internet users decide what they want from their ISPs and to let ISPs and content companies do unmediated battle with one another to create and capture the greatest value from the Internet ecosystem. If the FCC were to reduce its power by freeing up more wireless spectrum—either selling it as property or dedicating it to commons treatment—competition to provide Internet service would strengthen consumers' hands.

I wrote a primer on Net neutrality here, and I wrote about the new FCC Chairman's plans to transform the agency into a "smart cop" on the Web beat here


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  1. the Internet ecosystem.


    1. So are memes the animal life of this internet ecosystem? I’m sure there’s a lolcat joke in here somewhere.

    2. The Information Superhighway.


  3. Fuck the ISPs. Let them act like the dump pipes they ought to be. There’s no reason Google’s packets should cost more than Yahoo’s. I don’t need AT&T to artificially inflate the costs based on their whims.

    1. Feel free to do this on the ISP that you own.

      What’s that? You didn’t lay out billions to build the infrastructure and don’t actually own one? Oh, then you just don’t want to pay more to torrent your pr0n unthrottled.

      And I’ll save you the trouble: the ISPs shouldn’t have local franchise monopolies/duopolies either. Tell the FCC to get the eff out of the way and let the market work, assuming they, the FCC, haven’t irrevocably destroyed it with their 1930’s-era thinking.

      1. Forgive me, Mr. JW, but you’re a fool. First you criticize Mr. Sizzlechest for complaining about the service he gets from his ISP, and advise him to start one.

        Then you criticize the FCC for not allowing him to start one?

        Forgive me, but this doesn’t make sense. I’d also like to save you the trouble and tell you that the ISPs didn’t lay out the billions to build the infrastructure, either. The US government did.

        1. I’d also like to save you the trouble and tell you that the ISPs didn’t lay out the billions to build the infrastructure, either. The US government did.

          [citation needed]

        2. First you criticize Mr. Sizzlechest for complaining about the service he gets from his ISP, and advise him to start one. Then you criticize the FCC for not allowing him to start one Forgive me, but this doesn’t make sense

          What exactly doesn’t make sense about that? JW is saying that the government should neither be regulating the content which flows over ISPs pipes, nor preventing entrepreneurs from starting new ISPs.

          I’d also like to save you the trouble and tell you that the ISPs didn’t lay out the billions to build the infrastructure, either.

          The hell they didn’t. I worked at quite a few ISPs who built out the infrastructure with their own routers, fiber strands, regional SONET rings, RADIUS servers, mail servers, etc. It was 100% private, save for any wires that were leased from the quasi-public telco monopolies. In any case, the US government didn’t have anything to do with it.

      2. “What’s that? You didn’t lay out billions to build the infrastructure and don’t actually own one?”

        Well actually tax dollars did exactly that. These ISPs/Telcos didn’t build the infrastructure, they’ve been getting government subsidies, land usage, etc. for a long time.

    2. How about the government stops granting local monopolies to service providers? That both fucks them and doesn’t screw up our internet with government meddling.

      1. There are no innocents in this debate.

    3. Dear sizzledick, your IPS doesn’t own a goddamn thing. It merely leases a fat connection to a backbone owned by AT&T or one of the other telecoms. It then rents a local connection to you and bridges your traffic over to the backbone.

      Please explain why on earth the federal government has the right to set the terms and conditions which AT&T leases access to its backbone network.

      1. Dear kuntath, eat a dick.

      2. The only “IPS”es that do that are the ones who resell DSL from a Baby Bell. If your ISP is a cable provider or a Baby Bell, they own the last mile infrastructure and connect to backbones, some of which they might own, some of which they have peering agreements with. These are government granted monopolies with guaranteed protection from competition and massive subsidies to build, which makes sense that Libertarians would defend them. (rolls eyes)

        1. net neutrality is not a fight about last mile or last yard connectivity.

          1. Actually it is, otherwise, Comcast, et al, wouldn’t keep getting called on the carpet for service throttling, especially on torrents and such. Net neutrality is frequently cited as the solution that issue.

            Of course, Comcast addresses this by meeting the gummint-set market price and capping bandwidth.

            It’s only one part of the pie, but yes, it’s more than the last mile.

            1. Comcast contracts directly with the end-user. If they want to throttle the bandwidth, they just have to put it in the contract. End-users have options other than comcast.

              End-user have few options if the major pipelines decide to throttle back YouTube. That’s where the real fight is.

              1. Comcast got in shitloads of trouble for refusing to “admit” they were throttling the service they gave to the end-user.

  4. All of this “suggests” that since intellectual property is defined/created by “the state,” the competition among capitalists of have the state write the intellectual property laws to further their particular interest will guarantee an endless battle of lobbyists, stretching as far as the eye can see. Good for DC property values, if nothing else.

  5. I think the time is finally right that we should have a secretary of the internet. I nominate this guy.


  6. If the federal government wants the Internet to be a public utility, they should buy up all the pipes from the corporations that laid those pipes, and then run it into the ground like every other public utility.

  7. You move into a rural sub-division that has a community well system. Your younger, hipper neighbor down the street uses more water than the rest of the sub-division combined to keep his hydroponic tanks working properly.

    Pipe neutrality demands that this pot-grower pays the same 20 bucks a month that the rest of families in the neighborhood pay to cover the insurance and electric bill for the well system.

    Net neutrallity is bullshit.

    1. You get your water from several sources, some of which are your well, but most of which are produced by other communities. You put in technology to trace the origin of the water and charge your neighbors more to use water from other systems than your own, despite the fact that the impact on your pipe system is equal, no matter the source.

      Arguments against network neutrality are largely informed by ignorance or mendacity.

      1. Arguments for network neutrality are largely the result of a bunch of anarchist IT types falling for the siren call of socialism.

    2. Water doesn’t work like bandwidth. You can use it up and it doesn’t come back. Nothing is gained when broadband lines are less than saturated. Bits aren’t saved.

  8. meh, a problem like that would be easily remedied by pay-for-use system, not a flat-fee-unlimited-service idea like you’re describing and is currently in place

    1. The issue with the “Internet” is that your local ISP may be willing to sell you an unlimited download plan for your service, but nothing obligates AT&T to sell the local ISP and unlimited download plan.

      1. Nothing obligates the local ISP to charge a single rate. Most actually tier the rates and have explicit rate limits to protect quality of service, none of which have anything to do with net neutrality.

    2. Of course, the real answer is competition and not regulation.

  9. Government granted monopolies: the gifts that keep on giving.

  10. If there was actually a lot of choice for most users, then NN might not matter, but for a lot of people they don’t have much choice.


    Either let the companies really compete, or allow NN. Either is fine, but no compeitition, plus no NN, seems like a bad deal to me.

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