Justice Department Fights Net-Neutrality

by Paul William Tenny

Ever since Republicans took control of the White House and Congress, the United States has systematically fallen behind the world in broadband availability. We used to be first, now we're twelfth and falling fast. That's not a coincidence either. The result of deregulation is always the same: less competition and less incentive to compete. This is based on a very simple principle, that when companies are forced to compete, they lose, and consumers win. When there is no competition, companies win, and consumers lose.

It's not a contest, we're talking about practical gains here. If you've got two companies that figure compete ting against each other would cost them more money than anything they might gain, they'll sit back and informally "agree" to hike prices in lock-step and sit back on their rears for a spell. They win because they don't have to spend money, and consumers lose because of high prices.
When companies are forced to compete, consumers win from the lower prices that competition always brings. When the telecoms were deregulated by congressional Republicans, telcos and cable companies lost any incentive to compete, and prices have gone up every single year since, well above the inflation curve. Why? Because they can. Rather than spending money to serve customers in areas where there is no access, the spend money on TV ads, telling us how much better they are, and how much their "competition" sucks. Order our service they say, and they'll get out to your house in a week instead of three.

Cheaper prices? Grow up.

So is it any surprise that the United States is a joke in the world of global communication? Is it a coincidence? Not at all. In the U.S. you can get 1.5mbit for $40-50 a month. Go north to Canada and you can get 10mbit for a third less. Go over seas and you can get ten times the bandwidth for a fourth that price. How is that possible?


Every country that has very fast and very cheap broadband heavily regulations the telecommunications industry. Every. Single. One.

Is it fair to the corporations? Who cares? If they exist to service us, then let them actually have to compete for once.

Now, Net-Neutrality is at the fringe of this debate but this irresponsible act by the Bush Justice Department is a symptom of the problems this country has been dealing with over the past ten years. As the president is entitled to do, he has loaded the Justice Department with conservatives, which are historically and vehemently against corporate regulation. Be telecommunication, or financial (remember Enron?) if a company can screw over a consumer, they'll clap and laugh about it and argue that corporations have every right to do so.

Me, I happen to think government exists to protect people from predatory actions like that. But, since that's not the kind of government we have, we have this instead:

The Federal Communications Commission should be "highly skeptical" of imposing any kind of regulatory mechanisms to ensure so-called Net neutrality, the Justice Dept. has advised.

In comments filed Thursday with the FCC, which has been seeking opinion on whether it should regulate Net neutrality, Justice cautioned that regulation could impede investment needed to further develop the Internet.

For those unaware, Net-Neutrality is the concept that telecommunication carriers should not be allowed to prioritize the bandwidth allocated to their own customers over those of others. While at first this might sound like a common sense and perfectly reasonable thing for a company to be allowed to do, it's not, given how the Internet functions. The large backbone operators like AT&T or Level 3 carry traffic that doesn't necessarily originate from, or is destined for, one of their own customers. They all operate this way with high-speed interlinks between each other to allow traffic to go anywhere it needs to.

Everyone benefits from these links because they use them for their own purposes as much as everyone else uses them. AT&T I believe, came up with the theory that if someone (or something) on the Internet is using a large amount of traffic, such as Google, that they aren't paying for (because Google isn't a customer of AT&T yet their traffic flows through their networks because of these peer connections) that AT&T should have the right to de-prioritize that traffic to insure their own customers have first dibs on the best network experience.

In case I haven't been clear, I'll also include the Wikipedia definition.

The principle of net neutrality and regulations designed to support the neutrality of the Internet have been subject to vociferous debate in various forums. Since the early 2000s, advocates of net neutrality rules have warned of the danger that broadband providers will use their power over the "last mile" to block applications they do not favor, and also to discriminate between content providers (e.g. websites, services, protocols), particularly competitors. Neutrality proponents also claim that telecom companies seek to impose the tiered service model more for the purpose of profiting from their control of the pipeline rather than for any demand for their content or services.[4] Others have stated that they believe "net neutrality" to be primarily important as a preservation of current freedoms.[5] As co-inventor of the Internet Protocol Vint Cerf has stated, "The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. A lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive."

Well, the problem here is that deregulation is what has hampered the development of the Internet in the United States more than anything else, by a long shot. The Justice Department only wants more deregulation which would cause the U.S. to fall even further behind.

Deregulation has obviously not worked, and they wanted more of it. I'm sure many people don't appreciate me preaching for politics, but I personally couldn't think of a better reason to vote Democrat next year. At the rate we're falling in the world, that drop from 1st to 12th likely means next year, we're headed for the 30's or worse. For what and who we are, that's unacceptably embarrassing and unnecessary.

Regulation of the telecommunication industry just plain works, and we need to go there again we want to enjoy what South Koreans have been enjoying for half a decade: cheap and fast Internet access that "just works."

Why does all of that matter? Without Net-Neutrality, you can kiss TV-over-Internet goodbye.


Related posts:

Leave a comment

View more stories by visiting the archives.

Media Pundit categories