McCain Wrong To Oppose Net Neutrality


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During the All Things Digital conference this week, John McCain was asked about Net Neutrality. His response, clearly against Net Neutrality shows a complete lack of understanding of the issue.

McCain began by suggesting that there should be as little regulation of broadband Internet as possible. He went on to say that "when you control the pipe, you should be able to profit from your investment"

What McCain fails to recognize about this issue is that most broadband providers are monopolies; and, where there is competition, it is between two monopolies -- both willing to sacrifice neutrality for the profits they can make.

In this country, we regulate monopolies. If we didn't, there wouldn't be an Internet. Back when most people connected to the Internet over modems, the telcos would have charged users by the minute or refused to sell lines to ISPs if they could have. The telephone companies are required, by regulation, to sell you land-line phone service that you can use as often as you want as long as you want. Before the Internet, people didn't keep their phones off the hook for hours on end. When the Internet came along, people began to take up lines for hours on end and it forced, because of regulation, the telcos to build out their infrastructure to compensate. But I digress.

Monopolies are not subject to the simple rules of supply and demand. In nearly all communities, only the telephone company and the cable company, both monopolies, can run lines to your home. The reason they have those monopolies is because of the investment involved in building the infrastructure. The monopoly guarantees they get a return on their investment and that they make a profit.

With the advent of broadband, existing monopolistic infrastructure is being leveraged to provide a high-profit add-on in the form of Internet access. I know it's high-profit because I used to run an ISP. They are already making money hand-over-fist on access. Now they want to make money extorting websites like Google by relegating them to a lower tier if they don't pay a fee. Opponents of Net Neutrality like to argue that if a neutral network is what is desired, the market will provide it. But when all you have are monopolies, there is no market.

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