from an expert in the field:
Art Brodsky is communications director at Public Knowledge (www.
publicknowledge.org), a Washington, D.C.-based public-interest group
working to defend users’ rights in the emerging digital culture.
DECEMBER DEBATE RESULTS:
Is it ever OK to walk away from
an “upside-down” mortgage?
THE INTERNET IS the greatest communications mechanism ever
created because no one has to ask permission to use it. Unlike, say, a cable
system in which the operators choose which programming channels get
on and which don’t, the Internet is open for everyone, from one person to
the biggest corporation, to set up a website, offer a service and so on. At
the same time, anyone can have access to those sites and services to read,
contribute, Tweet, buy, e-mail, whatever.
Now this open Internet is in danger of being replaced by an Internet none of us would
recognize—an Internet in which some websites are sectioned off into “managed services”
for which customers will have to pay more, as with separate cable tiers. Or there could be an
Internet in which some websites load faster and look better because one company has made a
deal with a telephone company to come through in the fast lane, leaving a smaller, innovative
site in the dust. Or a website could specify which browsers are needed to use its site, putting
some users at a disadvantage.
Right now, all of those activities that would destroy an open Internet are legal. The only
reason they haven’t happened yet is that the telecom industry is waiting to make sure that
Sadly, many in Congress, acting at the behest of the telephone and cable industries, would
allow the open Internet to be destroyed under the guise of opposing regulation. In this case,
Without some regulation, whether by the FCC or other government agencies, the open
Internet we all enjoy and appreciate now will wither away under the enormous economic power
of the telephone and cable companies, their political ecosphere and their pet politicians. We can’t
let that happen. It may be that not all of those bad results can be prevented, but we have to try. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by December 10, 2010.
NOVEMBER DEBATE RESULTS:
from an expert in the field:
Should the sponsors of political
ads be identified?
YES: 94% NO: 6%
Percentage reflects votes received by
November 30, 2010. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
Randolph J. May is the editor of New Directions in Communications Policy and president of the Free State Foundation (www.
freestatefoundation.org), a free-market-oriented think tank in
THE CAMPAIGN FOR government-imposed net neutrality regulation is
a classic solution in search of a problem.
Openness already characterizes the Internet. That’s why net neutrality
proponents always say net neutrality regulations, which would prevent
Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided in 2002 not to regulate
Internet providers as common carriers, the way that monopolistic Ma Bell was regulated dur-
ing the 20th century, the marketplace for broadband Internet services has become increasingly
robust and competitive. More than 95 percent of American households have access to broad-
band Internet services, and 90 percent have access to two or more providers. Of course, in
addition to using cable, telephone and satellite broadband providers, consumers increasingly
access the Internet, including video programs, through their smart wireless devices.
Indeed, with marketplace competition driving investment and innovation, it is not surprising
a recent poll conducted by Hart Research Associates found that 75 percent of Americans say the
Internet is working well, and 55 percent believe the government should not regulate the Internet.
In light of the competition among Internet providers, it is highly unlikely they will act in
ways that harm consumers. Service providers want to retain subscribers, not lose them, which
is why there have been so few instances of alleged blocking or discrimination against websites.
The real problem with net neutrality regulation is that the FCC is likely to overreach as it
has so many times in the past. A rigidly enforced nondiscrimination regulation may well prevent Internet providers from differentiating their services in ways that allow them to be
responsive to evolving consumer demand. After all, the freedom to differentiate services is
what leads to innovation and new investment.
Absent a meaningful showing of present market failure or consumer harm, it is wise to
keep the government out of the Internet regulation business. The Internet is flourishing quite
nicely without such government regulation. C
JANUARY 2011 The Costco Connection 23
Opinions expressed are those of the individuals
or organizations represented and are presented
to foster discussion. Costco and The Costco
Connection take no position on any Debate topic.