Net Neutrality as the Big Print Media Defines it

Inside The Beltway Newspapers Lying About Net Neutrality? What A Surprise from the inside-the-beltway-logic dept

Two separate editorials from DC newspapers both oppose net neutrality efforts -- and yet, both seem to be filled with outright lies or misleading half-truths. As we've said repeatedly, the real issue with net neutrality is that there isn't enough competition in the broadband space. If there were real competition, network neutrality wouldn't even be on the table for discussion.

The Washington Post tries to get by this point by claiming that there is real competition in the broadband space, stating that 60% of all zip codes have four or more choices. Of course, reading that language, you can tell immediately that it's coming from the FCC's discredited broadband penetration numbers. The FCC counts on a per zip code basis -- so if a broadband provider offers broadband to a single house in that zip code, the entire zip code is considered covered by that provider. The General Accounting Office's own study found much, much lower broadband penetration than the FCC numbers suggest. Laying wires should represent a natural monopoly. It simply doesn't make economic sense to lay too many identical sets of wires (it would be like building many competing, privately owned, highway systems: it's wasteful) -- which is why the government went around and granted many of these firms monopoly rights of way in the first place, with the promise of creating competition within the network, rather than between networks.

When true wireless systems come along, then perhaps there will be the necessary competition, but don't buy the hype that cellular wireless, WiMax or satellite broadband are anywhere near being true competitors to fiber, let alone DSL or cable. We're still probably a decade away from seeing real competition from those quarters (though, reformed spectrum allocation policy could help there as well...).

Then, the Washington Times chimes in with its own anti-network neutrality screed, saying that we shouldn't worry about network neutrality because there's no problem yet. This, of course, has been the argument that the telcos have raised for many years, just more vocally these days. As we've noted, there is some truth to this -- but that doesn't mean network neutrality issues deserve to be ignored. As some have pointed out there are plenty of "speculative" dangers that the government decides are worth paying attention to, such as potential terrorist attacks or bird flu.

And, in the case of network neutrality, the executives of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have all stated very publicly that they would like to break the basic concepts of network neutrality, and make Google pay again for the part of the internet you already pay for. The Washington Times piece also totally mischaracterizes the debate, claiming that network neutrality means the telcos can't charge sites like Google more for the bandwidth they use. This is flat out false. The high bandwidth users online, such as Google, Yahoo, Vonage and others are already paying for their bandwidth. What the telcos are trying to get them to do is pay double for your bandwidth as well. The current network neutrality proposals in Congress are really a side issue that completely ignores the real issue (the lack of competition). It's no secret that some of the proposals in Congress have problems as well, but that doesn't mean the issue of network neutrality should be brushed aside. Of course, instead of getting any serious debate, we're getting soundbites, lies, misleading arguments, propaganda and celebrity endorsements. The whole debate, on both sides, has become a joke.

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