Monday, April 14, 2008

Net Neutrality isn't the issue

As this article points out, the Bell throttling of independent ISPs situation isn't so much an issue of net neutrality as it is of Bell misusing it's last mile monopoly. If Bell wants to alienate their customers by deliberately crippling their Internet access there's an argument to be made that the marketplace will solve that problem.

But not if Bell also cripples the Internet access of it's competitors, the independent ISPs who have no choice but to get their ADSL trunks from the last mile monopoly of the ICLECs, the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers.

There are times when congestion exists on the Internet (sometimes legitimate, and sometimes not), and customers should be able to hire an ISP that best matches their own beliefs in how to handle this congestion. While I believe that the government should mandate disclosure of routing policies by ISPs, I believe that regulating “Net Neutrality” directly may backfire.

This is an entirely different question than the fact that existing regulation of the “last mile” monopoly must be enforced and strengthened. There will always be a “last mile” monopoly for telecommunications for the same reason there is for roads: it makes no more sense for every telecommunications provider to run separate wires into our homes than for every retailer to run separate roads to our homes.

Solving the Net Neutrality ISP issues through competition requires that a competitive marketplace exist, and that requires that those managing that “last mile” are not able to leverage that monopoly to wipe out competition.

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