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False Information About Net Neutrality

GovernmentTechnologyProponents of the net neutrality debate have been citing a dubious explanation for their doom and gloom claims. The argument goes something like this:

Yeah, after a one year transition period, that’s gone, as a sort of sunset provision for the free internet sets. This is incredibly sneaky. What McCurry is doing is couching a radical change to the internet in the guise of the status quo… [W]e are in the waning months of the Clinton/Gingrich-era internet, where telcos are forced to treat everyone fairly. In three months, we won’t be there anymore unless Congress passes Net Neutrality legislation. It’s funny how the telcos want Congress to cement the FCC‚Äôs radical change to the Clinton/Gingrich era into the law while no one’s looking ‚Äì all while pretending others are advocating such radical change.

The trouble is, it’s just not true. The FCC did, in fact, reverse the restrictions it had on DSL lines, but those rules never applied to cable modems – of which, there are millions more.

There are currently almost 25 million people connected to the Internet via cable modems and about 18.5 million connected by DSL. Under the doomsday scenario espoused by Matt Stoller, MoveOn and the rest of the Net Neutrality reactionaries, you would think that cable companies have been using their gross power to block access and force you to use their services rather than Google or Yahoo. It’s just not the case. Why? Because of the dangerous forces of what we call the free market.

If cable companies started these predatory practices, the customers would run – not walk – to the telephone companies with their internet dollars. If the telcos begin restricting access when the FCC ruling goes into effect, the number of cable modem customers will skyrocket. Why would the telcos risk the loss of 18.5 million customers? The simple answer? They wouldn’t.

Net Neutrality, for those on the left, is not about “saving” anything. It’s also not about protecting the consumer.

For them, it is about striking a blow against corporations. They believe in the power of the federal government to make things better despite a nearly total lack of evidence of that possibility.

If you believe in federal management of the Internet, then declare it a national asset, pay the companies that have built it with billions of dollars of capital investment, and give it to the populace for free.

If you’re not prepared to do that – either because you fear the disaster of government management or because you don’t believe we should shell out billions in a massive power grab by the fed – then you should accept that the market is an exceedingly powerful force and will continue to work.

(Disclaimer: While I work for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, this post should in no way be construed as an official position of the Association. Thoughts in this space are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer.)

Written by Michael Turk