/ tech

Senate Review for Net Neutrality

The US Senate today approved the nullification of the FCC net neutrality rollback. This is a positive step, but to actually matter the house would need to vote the same way.

It's nice however to see Democrats and a few Republicans continuing to make an issue of this. It's a very good example of a complex technical topic getting various interpretations based on politics. There are a ton of different constituencies in the commercial space including tech companies, telcos, and media companies. The venn diagram of conflicting interests is surprisingly complex, and that's before you get the money and politics questions involved. People you think would be very in favor of net neutrality like independent media companies actually turn out to be significantly less in favor than it might appear. Détente is in many cases safer and more stable for these entrenched interests. Plus they figure if it ends up costing them something more the better in a case where they have the money and a smaller player might not.

Most arguments against net neutrality are just various facades on rent seeking behaviors. In reality network connectivity isn't that different from electricity. Utilities and municipalities needed to make large investments to build out their distribution network. The way you use the electricity you pay for isn't anyone's business but yours, and the utility companies seem to be doing pretty well. There are lots of people willing to tell you that the network is different, and it is, the difference is that we haven't yet established that it can and should serve the public good first and corporate profits second. You can find all the evidence you need for this in the tremendous opposition by corporations and politicians to prevent municipal broadband from gathering steam.

comcast-q1

A quick look at Comcast revenue will tell you why they care so much about internet access. It's growing. They now have more internet customers than cable customers, and so now they, and other companies like them are focused on getting every last viable dollar out of that. Capital expenditures actually decreased by 5% to $2B in this same time frame, so they don't worry, they aren't taking all this money and plowing it into making your service better. What they are doing is $2.2B in dividends and stock buybacks.

So don't be fooled, there are two sides to this issue, corporate profits and control vs. ubiquitous internet. If you think you should be able to go to any web site, use any app, and not pay extra you want the internet to be like electricity; Net Neutrality is probably for you.