The Senate Commerce Committee, co-chaired by Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), is currently holding hearings on Net Neutrality (video and transcripts) with a long list of heavy hitters scheduled to appear on both sides of this important issue. Daniel Berninger, a senior writer at Business 2.0 Magazine has a great editorial that succinctly and passionately describes just why net neutrality is absolutely essential for the internet and why the telcos are being extremely shortsighted and will end up destroying the very infrastructure they helped to set up. And this isn’t some tree-falls-in-the-woods type of discussion. It has direct, dire, and long-reaching consequences on libraries and internet users. Without net neutrality, free access to digital govt information (not to mention the entire internet!) will be a thing of the past.
The telco and cable companies have in mind creating another type of customer not a class of service. They want suppliers to pay for the right of transit. It amounts to airlines charging Time Warner for the right of readers to take Time magazine on an airplane. It means charging Ford tolls in addition to drivers for the right of Ford cars to use highways.
Beware of the monopolist that wants the â€œmarketâ€ to decide. If there actually existed a healthy market for Internet access, users would certainly switch away from service providers tinkering with performance based on kickbacks from content companies. The toll collecting ambitions of the telcoâ€™s and cable coâ€™s hinge on the absence of market forces. The fights against municipal wireless initiatives and lobbying budgets that exceed R&D budgets arise to defeat any leakage of market power. Network neutrality forces a virtuous cycle where winning requires making offers faster and cheaper. This dynamic accounts for growth in the info tech industry as platform improvements expand the range of possible applications.
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