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Net Neutrality Thoughts
[March 02, 2006]

Net Neutrality Thoughts

President & Group Editor-in-Chief

The Wall Street Journal has a great article on net neutrality and in it there are quotes from people against net neutrality from companies such as Vonage and Cisco. On the opposing side of course are LECs. Here is an excerpt:

"Any model that allows the consumer to have more control and more choice makes sense to us," says BellSouth Chief Technology Officer William Smith, who is contemplating the new models but has no immediate plans to implement them.

Mr. Smith often laments the fact that his parents, who use the Internet for only low-capacity activities such as Web surfing and email, pay fees similar to those of heavy users who suck up capacity by downloading music or using BitTorrent, which is used by millions to download movies and other material off the Internet. Overall at BellSouth, 1% of broadband customers drive 40% of Internet traffic, he says. "People who drive cost in the network create additional charges in the network," Mr. Smith says. "If my elderly parents don't use a lot of traffic we ought to be able to create a service plan that meets their needs."

Smith makes a good point but it is worth noting that if we had more than two broadband providers in the states the likelihood of this debate even taking place would be zero. In fact, increased competition would force broadband providers to increase broadband access speed just to stay competitive.

We cannot have real competition with only two choices. I look to the automobile market or the airline market as examples of how new entrants are necessary for real competition. Consumers are getting shortchanged by a system where only two companies control access to broadband.

The United States was the country that made the Internet possible and now many other countries have broadband access that is cheaper and faster than ours. We are having the wrong argument in my opinion. We need to figure out how to get more companies into this game.

If we ever get to a point where there are 5-10 Internet providers, perhaps we should then allow these providers to have multiple tiers of Internet service. At least then the open markets will make such decisions for us and not a few monopolistic players. 

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC. In addition he is the

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