Two Types of Net Neutrality: Good & Evil

Cyberlaw Tech News

Lawmakers can’t understand why net neutrality is a good thing, so their only recourse is to turn it into a bad thing. The latest bill: If large monopolistic broadband providers that limit your ISP choice are unable to control your Internet surfing, then all websites may be watched and potentially forced to be “neutral” via FCC regulation. Huh?

The comparison is preposterous in that the two scenarios are like apples and oranges. In the first case, you have broadband providers that would like to give preferential treatment to websites that pay for it. So, in effect, you’d have better browsing capabilities (faster speed) with large websites that have paid your broadband provider for improved performance over the competition. But if you’re interested in checking out a website that is in competition with your broadband provider’s affiliates, good luck. It’s akin to buying Pepsi at a movie theater wholly sponsored by Coke. Not going to happen…

In the second case, you have the millions of websites online competing for your business. For example, your loyalty to a search engine isn’t dictated by the lack of availability of other search engines. If you don’t like Google, you try Yahoo, if you don’t like Yahoo, try MSN, etc. Many of us have used dozens of search engines in our quest to find information. And this lack of loyalty (a.k.a. low switching cost) is a good thing in that it prevents barrier to entry in cyberspace thus causing search and other online services to be enhanced and refined through companies’ healthy competition one with another.

This healthy competition doesn’t really exist with broadband providers in that, in any give area of the United States, most Internet users can only receive high-speed Internet access from one or two providers. Thus, service is generally poor; innovation is low; and switching costs for consumers are high. But this barrier to entry doesn’t stop these duopolistic companies from feeling entitled to windfall profits that come with dictating what sites you can access based on which have paid them the most.

So now, as the big telcos and cable companies are under fire for trying to turn the Internet into cable TV (where they control the broadcasting), their only recourse is to turn “net neutrality” into a tainted term by taking it to the extreme: giving the FCC power to regulate content on the Internet to enforce neutrality. For example, the FCC could prevent Google from declining certain types of controversial or negative ads or it could force Google to run ads for its competition, all under the banner of Google needing to be “neutral.”

This would be an extreme amount of power given to a government body. Ironically, the original definition of net neutrality was focused around limiting “the man’s” power, not giving him more. Of course, broadband providers don’t necessarily want this newly defined net neutrality. They’re just hoping that any thought of it will stop the pleas for the original net neutrality.

But they miss the point: The Internet is a free and open land that should be available to anyone without government intervention or conglomerate controlled content. This is true Net Neutrality. Don’t be fooled by the tainted version involving a government body deciding what’s neutral. Neutral has already been happening without the FCC defining it, thank you very much.

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