Network Neutrality: Far from Neutral (February 2010)
Comments of the Texas Public Policy Foundation on the Federal Communications Notice of Proposed Rulemaking In the Matter of Preserving the Open Internet Broadband Industry Practices (January 13, 2010)
Information Provided by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association
What does “network neutrality” mean? That answer is difficult because each stakeholder assigns it a different meaning. Cable’s viewpoint is that network neutrality means that consumers should be allowed to access any lawful content, application or services available over the public Internet as well as attach devices that do not cause harm to the network.
Proponents of net neutrality would have the government regulate the prices, terms and conditions of broadband services. Indeed, many net neutrality proposals seek to specify which business models are permissible, and which ones are not. They would impose by government fiat outcomes that benefit established Internet companies like Google, Amazon, and Yahoo! to the detriment of network operators (including cable) and new Internet service providers.
The cable industry supports Congress’s longstanding policy of leaving the Internet unregulated. This “hands-off” regulatory approach to broadband – in place since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – has been a success and has encouraged private investment in new services and infrastructure (more than $100 billion by the cable industry alone since 1996). By contrast, network neutrality laws would stifle investment and lead to a proliferation of lawsuits.
Those who call for regulation of the Internet in the name of “network neutrality” are offering a solution in search of a problem since there is no evidence of a market failure justifying the imposition of common carrier-like regulation on broadband services. “One size fits all” net neutrality regulation would replace the workings of the marketplace with government regulation, and choose today what business models are, and are not, permissible. By contrast, in the current market-driven environment, companies have the freedom to experiment with multiple business models, producing more choices and competition in content and providers for consumers, and more innovation than ever before.
The current marketplace is working well to bring consumers the services and features they want at prices they can afford. Lawmakers should be very reluctant to replace that flexible, market-driven success story with a system of intrusive regulation. At a time when there is widespread agreement that our national policies should maximize broadband for all, Congress should not enact a policy of net neutrality that would stifle innovation in broadband networks and act as a tax on broadband, slowing its growth and reach to all Americans.