Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 2:13am
WHAT CONGRESS IS LEARNING ABOUT 'NETWORK NEUTRALITY'
[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: Holman Jenkins]
[Commentary] Google, eBay, Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel are spending millions to tie up Congress in a bogus debate about "net neutrality" at a time when other important telecom work is being left undone. Verizon and AT&T are the targets, thanks to superfast Internet connections they are just starting to provide to consumers over which to deliver TV in competition with cable and satellite. Being peddled is a kind of IP fetishism -- a claim that any network that uses Internet protocol must operate like the Internet consumers think they're used to today, one undivided pipe between them and the world's Web sites. Of course, that's not really what consumers are getting today. Your cable operator may sell you one, two or three megabits of capacity for a broadband connection, but most of his pipe is reserved for his TV offerings. Verizon and AT&T have made clear they, too, will reserve a big share of their new pipes for their own value-added services, namely TV, and for other content distributors who are willing to pay for access to it. That's how they hope to recoup their investment. Yet it's obvious that, even as they roll out their TV services, they will be under competitive pressure to keep giving consumers bigger and bigger pipes for their own Web browsing. How do we know? Because that's what cable is already doing, and because Ed Whitacre and Ivan Seidenberg aren't so dumb as to try to make a business model out of denying consumers Web content at home that they freely get at work or at the local Starbucks. And, c'mon, there's plenty of time for Congress to act if a real problem materializes. The issue is Internet survival. The real issue is where will the big bucks come from to create an Internet capable of handling the services now envisioned, let alone those not yet dreamed up. Think back to the beginnings of radio and TV: Those business models would never have worked if consumers had had to foot the bill directly for programming. It's clear today that giving consumers the kind of Internet that will support high-definition video and gaming will require the bill to be shared by companies with a stake in putting the new services in front of consumers.
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