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Pulling net neutrality from a swamp of lies

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | March 9, 2015
New net neutrality rules: no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization.

Boy, I bet Verizon is sorry it opened that can of worms now. Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Comcast and other last-mile ISPs now claim that the FCC will micromanage the Internet, raise consumer costs, lead to Internet taxes, and disrupt the Internet.

Really? The Internet seemed to have done just fine between 1992 and 2014. Maybe that's just me.

What this is really about is that the last-mile ISPs wanted more money, and they figured they could get it by controlling the new fast and slow lanes of the Internet. The FCC has put an end, for now, to that power grab.

So why am I not celebrating? Well, because all this new ruling did is reset things to the way they were. It did not require that consumers get any choice about their last-mile ISP. As The New York Times noted, the faster the Internet, the fewer choices you get. In December 2013, if you wanted broadband, which is now defined as 25Mbps, chances are you had, at most, two ISPs to choose from. About one in five of you can get broadband from only one ISP.

This, of course, is before Comcast, the U.S.'s largest end-user ISP, merges with Time Warner Cable, the third-largest broadband provider. The combined company would control about 40% of the high-speed broadband market. This will put even more Internet users under de facto monopolies.

What good will net neutrality do you then? Not much.

In addition, in the early days of the commercial Internet, ISPs were required to unbundle their Internet connections. That meant that they were required to lease out their lines on fair and nondiscriminatory terms. Today if a small ISP wants to try to piggyback on the local big-company cable lines, they pretty much can't. The FCC could have tried to bring back unbundling. It didn't.

I know some panicked smaller ISPs are worried that additional FCC fees will put them out of business. Please. Your real problem is the big boys are going to continue to grind you out of business.

Last, but far from least, every bit of this is going to be fought out in the court for years. The most I hope for is that for two years we have some net neutrality protection. After that, we'll just have to see what the courts make of it.


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