Originally published: November 16, 2011
Last updated: December 21, 2011 - 10:37am
[Commentary] The Senate’s rejection of a "resolution of disapproval" of the Federal Communications Commission’s open Internet rules was a major victory for network neutrality, but should anyone care? Not really.
The problems that would be created by a lack of net neutrality are generally monopoly-related. That is, should network operators have the right to slow down various types of competing services? Most reasonable people would say no. After all, is it fair to essentially control the network infrastructure and also compete with smaller businesses that rely on that infrastructure? This theoretical problem becomes a real one in the broadband market, because in many parts of the country there are at most two choices for last mile service. As I've argued before, having two providers (telco and cable) in an area doesn't constitute a free broadband marketplace. It encourages cronyism, even collusion. The right way to proceed is to emulate Europe: Unbundle the middle mile network from the last mile. That is, don't let the same entities that control the middle mile compete in the last mile market. The middle mile--between the cable company and phone company--is a commons. There, the providers don't overbuild fiber optic; they do fiber swaps.