Net Neutrality: Lessons Learned After the Monopoly Crumbled
When it comes to Net Neutrality the politics of the issue seem only to exist because in modern America everything has to be a partisan issue. In the case of whether or not the FCC should use its authority to ensure that all internet content is delivered to users at the same speed, Republicans suggest that this is simply another case of nanny-state liberals trying to regulate the free market to death, or something.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Republicans oppose any Net neutrality rules, arguing that it Internet has flourished in large part because it has been free from heavy government regulation.” By reclassifying Internet providers as “common carriers,” the FCC would have significant authority over the types of services providers could offer.
Most significantly, of course, is the “internet fast lane” which actually means, “everything else is slowed down,” because it would allow companies with a significant financial advantage to business with a lot of on-hand capital. Corporate liberal news like MSNBC could afford to pay into the “fast lane” where independent progressive news organization Democracy NOW! would most like have to limp along in the “slow lane.”
What is interesting, however, is that Net neutrality should also be embraced by Republicans. Essentially what the FCC would be doing is not allowing massive telecommunications companies to squash competitors by simply outspending them. A recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index found that Americans are more dissatisfied with Cable/Internet companies than any other in America. They have little interest in providing a good product or making their customers happy, instead focusing on how to earn as much money as they can until it all falls apart once again.
Writing for Forbes, Todd Hixon compares the “wave of innovation” that would be stunted without Net neutrality to the one that resulted when another telecommunications giant—AT&T/Bell Telephone—was opened up to competition. Yet what Hixon may not have realized the larger point he discovered. It was the lessons learned from that time that has most likely shaped these companies’ strategies, of which AT&T tops the list.
After the break-up of the phone company and it was followed by the obsolescence of the entire business of providing long distance service. These companies realized that the cash cow was not immortal. So rather than investing in infrastructure and improving their current product, they instead seek to bleed their customers (on both the content creation and consumption fronts) of as much money as possible until “the next thing” comes along and it’s time to start all over again.
Photo by Anna Fox via Flickr Creative Commons