The Spectacle Blog

Explaining Broadband Regulation

By on 6.21.06 | 9:08AM

A reader asks us to explain in greater detail "net neutrality." He is right -- it is a confusing term, because it is a benign sounding political label to a pretty nefarious idea.

Though the Prowler and the Heritage Foundation have explained it in greater detail, essentially it would lock in the Internet's status quo. As nice as that may sound, the key part they want to lock in is that the network providers, those who build the backbone of the Internet and carry the information from content provider to consumer, do not pass on costs to content providers. Verizon and AT&T are investing billions of dollars for the next, video-driven phase of the Internet. While providers like Google, Yahoo, etc. make their billions from the free bandwidth, they do not want to pay for their free ride. The network providers would like to establish tiers of service, much like cell phone companies and even the post office do.

Essentially, net neutrality/broadband regulation is the first enormous step of government regulation of the Internet. It is hostile to the free market principles which have so well fueled the Internet's growth up until now. And if the government penalizes infrastructure investment by barring the network providers from passing on those costs, get ready for high prices and Internet-style bread lines.

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