We Need A Broadband Competition Act, Not A Net Neutrality Act

from the get-out-the-wrecking-ball dept

Andy Kessler has put together a fantastic editorial for the Wall Street Journal explaining why Markey’s attempt at legislating Net Neutrality won’t do any good. As we pointed out when Markey first announced it, this plan seems to be focused on the symptoms, not the real problem (and, no, just having the FCC step in to slap the wrists of neutrality violators doesn’t help either). The real problem, of course, is the lack of real competition in the broadband market. Kessler suggests that we shouldn’t be focused on Net Neutrality, but should wipe out the bogus regulations that are currently restricting competition in the broadband market. That means not going through a painful localized franchising process or making it a pain to get the rights of way necessary to install equipment necessary for next generation broadband. It means actually opening up the market to competition, not creating subsidies and regulations that mean only the incumbents can play. Not that politicians are about to do anything like this, but it sure would be nice.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “We Need A Broadband Competition Act, Not A Net Neutrality Act”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Steve R. (profile) says:

Ethical Corporations

Competition will help. It would allow people to switch if the company doesn’t provide good service.

A residual concern, even with increased competition,– how is the consumer to know if he or she is being screwed by the ISP????? I know that I don’t have the technical expertise to make that determination. Since the anecdotal evidence is rising that corporation (such as Comcast) are doing stealth actions to manipulate the flow of packets, I am left with a feeling of mistrust. To avoid the hammer of regulation, I would hope that companies (such as Comcast) could take a more proactive ethical approach.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ethical Corporations

A residual concern, even with increased competition,– how is the consumer to know if he or she is being screwed by the ISP????? I know that I don’t have the technical expertise to make that determination.

Simple. What do you do when you don’t have the expertise for anything else? You hire someone who does.

Doug M (user link) says:

same for tv

This is similar to the way cable companies are run. Very few companies get the right to place the necessary components to supply television to people. without innovation, we start heading to a world run by monopolies that aren’t considered monopolies. and since the government makes their money this way, i don’t see it changing anytime soon.

Mark Murphy says:

Close, But No Cigar

I agree that net neutrality will be significantly helped by more competition, though it’ll take a whole lot of competition before we get out of the oligopoly state. Two competitors is not competition; 200 is. And it may take 200 in order to get one or more playing fair w/r/t net neutrality.

That means not going through a painful localized franchising process or making it a pain to get the rights of way necessary to install equipment necessary for next generation broadband.

If you mean that as I expect it’ll be interpreted (see the Anonymous Coward’s comment about digging above), then I think you’re going to run into problems.

You simply can’t have dozens or hundreds of firms trying to lay fiber in a town. Even some wireless solutions can run into interference issues with everyone sharing a frequency (e.g., WiFi bad, cellular good). Both are examples of the oft-cited “tragedy of the commons”.

That being said, there may be ways to structure the competition such that the tragedy can be avoided. With respect to fiber, for example, I suspect there’s a way for a town to own the fiber like it owns the water lines and sewers and whatnot. The town isn’t providing the Internet connection, but it is allowing ISPs to connect to the town to provide service to whatever households sign up for them. The ISPs pay less vs. their own build-out, but they have to put up with competition. And if ISPs want their own build-out (e.g., different/better tech than what the town has), that’s fine, but they have to go through the rigmarole they do today and perhaps more, to justify the hassle for the town’s residents.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Close, But No Cigar

competition is great for industries that are not “natural monopolies”. cable and telephone companies are natural monopolies thanks to municipal rights of way. competition in those industries will never happen. ever.

we don’t need more competition in the telephone and TV space, we need more competition in the ISP space.

after all, if you can deliver enough bandwidth, telephone and television service are not that hard to provide over said connection.

since the cable companies and telephone companies provide service that is famously bad, you don’t have to compete on price alone, just providing a reliable product with no hidden fees is enough to make half of america switch today.

mobile providers need to get into the residential and commercial internet access business, along with municipal programs, the power companies, satellite communications companies, and maybe even the auto industry.

i think the water and sewer companies need to figure out how to put a signal thru water to provide broadband internet service.

if you are in the business of putting a signal, a copper wire, or a microprocessor into a home or business, then you should expand your product offerings with internet service. the ISP market is begging for additional providers.

the more “pipes” that are available in your neighborhood, the less likely the two or fewer providers in your neighborhood will be to play games with your service.

ChrisH says:

Re: Re: Close, But No Cigar

Agree with chris: There are places where the free market does not work, and this is one of those places. Sometimes the realities of the physical world get in the way of the miracles of the theory of free markets. This type of market failure is covered in econ 101.

I’d much rather see municipalities & citizens own the fiber & get to decide the rules (net neutrality, etc) rather than some remote global corporation.

Keith says:

I agree with #2 : The poles in the alley are not there just for looks! They should utilize that instead of installing their stuff in people yards. If they install on private property, they ought to pay rent to the owners and if they install somewhere other than the poles, they should ‘pay the town-city to make up for the ugly boxes on every other corner.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

I don’t see how any objective person could be against net neutrality. the phone systems in the US have been neutral for decades without any problems. In other words, a phone company cannot discriminate as to which calls it will allow through it’s network.

The only reason large ISPs (cable and telcos) are against net neutrality is because they want to triple dip. By that I mean that the user would be charged to connect to the internet. A site like Google would have to be charged for their bandwidth. And a site like Google would be charged yet again by the individual ISPs to allow end user access. Getting rid of net neutrality would be a huge cash cow.

While I agree that I would love to see more competition in the broadband market, that would not fix this problem. All ISPs would want to partake in that triple dipping. The fact that there are five ISPs or a million would not change that desire to triple dip.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“When there are laws on the books solely for their own purpose it just makes a big mess that has to be corrected with more and more laws…”

Then why do the neutrality laws with phones work so well? If there was no phone neutrality, you’d pay for your phone service. And when you called someone, you’d pay his carrier. And if your call passed through any third party carriers, you’d have to pay them too.

That’s what the telcos and the cable companies want to do. They want to decide who gets to go through to the end user to make everyone pay again and again. See my post above for more information.

And your argument could be used against criminal laws too. Why pass criminal laws? Why should murder be illegal? Let the market work out who should be alive and dead. Please explain why that’s wrong without dipping into some subjective morality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is an objective morality that explains why criminal laws ought to exist — in the simplest terms it boils down to, “society simply can’t function otherwise.” That being said, we shouldn’t criminalize EVERYTHING, or even just everything we can or, arguably, everything we should. One ought only legislate what one must.

Civil (versus Criminal) laws are the same; even more so because it’s far less often the case that society can’t function unless this or that civil offense is coded into law.

copo says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Neutrality laws with phones work so well” – Have they really? There hasn’t been any significant improvement in our phone service over the last 50 years. It’s stayed the same. We’re not sending anymore information through our phone lines now than we did 50 years ago.

Phone companies have never needed to improve on their infrastructure because the service they offer hasn’t changed. It works “good enough” for its purpose. You can’t compare neutrality laws for phone service with that of internet service.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Have they really? There hasn’t been any significant improvement in our phone service over the last 50 years. It’s stayed the same. We’re not sending anymore information through our phone lines now than we did 50 years ago.

i disagree. dialup internet access changed the landscape for rediential phone service forever.

they didn’t have caller ID 50 years ago. centrally stored voicemail didn’t exist 50 years ago. 911 is not 50 years old. the mobile phone is not a 50 year old invention either.

innovation is necessary even when you have a monopoly, because that is how you justify raising prices.

Schizoid says:

Depending on the laws in your local city/state it most likely is *not your yard or part of* they would be digging up to begin with but an easement the city or state owns rights to. It may suck but that was part of what you had to accept in order to live there. In most areas the city or state will maintain rights to a small portion of the property for those very reasons. Not that I favor those rights to be abused but you must understand the legalities before you can yipe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Of course the city maintains rights to a small portion of your property, but if you get rid of municipal approval/regulation of fiber, Verizon would just have a right to do what they want?

No. What’s being discussed is the elimination of discriminatory regulations set up to favor one company. In other words, allowing competition to use the same space as the incumbents. That does not mean letting companies “do what they want”. That’s a ridiculous assertion.

Alimas says:

Competition Isn't Enough

The net neutrality act is more vital than additional competition (though more competition always helps).
If I had four more Verizons or Comcasts in my area, they’d simply all agree to the a lot of the same habits in order for the better interest of them all.
They’d all be fighting equally to throttle certain types of traffic and punish “heavy users” like myself.
Our capitalist system isn’t just a blind free-for-all. Competitors strike deals with each other all the time to control their market for the better of them all.
And I think that’s all we’d have with increased competition and no net neutrality.
Different sign up deals, different speed promises. Standard throttling and heavy user punishment.

Time shitter says:

google take over

Google is Taking over the world!!! dont you see that!!!! Put a stop to this by visiting http://www.antigoogle.com... hahaha just kidding, but really What if Google ran the US would it be better, would it be worse? all i know is that Google has accomplished so much for only staring off as a search engine, now adding to the X-prize for shooting to the moon! also a new fibreoptic cable at the bottom of the ocean… looking at a Yahoo buy out, solar panels on the roof! OMG google has become a household word, “dont know, google it” it seems that google is drabbling in everything so long as its interesting or contains electrodes and LED’s, Yes we do need a new ISP maybe once google gets the 700mhz spectrum we will see a change in price of cable, maybe Google will have total wireless internet over the US for only 39.99 a month, wouldnt that be great…

or congress (the senate) not the house…

Thor says:

Re: google take over

They need better direction and purpose. I have ideas, good ones, that would very likely require a teeming up between Google and X (and maybe Y), making what they do now look secondary. Of course, Polititions are usually the biggest roadblock to problem solving. I don’t think the vast majority of them even want to actually solve problems anymore. This is major problem for US.

4-80-sicks says:

The fact that there are five ISPs or a million would not change that desire to triple dip.

It may not change the desire, but it does change the ability. I’m going to use the ISP that doesn’t triple dip. There’s a lot more chance for that one (or five) to exist out of ten companies, than there is out of two.

Then why do the neutrality laws with phones work so well?

Are there actually laws? I don’t know, but I think it’s more like the market. If AT&T wants to triple dip as you’re describing, I’m going to use Sprint or Qwest.

And your argument could be used against criminal laws too. Why pass criminal laws? Why should murder be illegal? Let the market work out who should be alive and dead. Please explain why that’s wrong without dipping into some subjective morality.

What? What the hell?? I don’t even know what to say. I didn’t say there should be no laws. You have drawn my opinion about endless regulation of communications to a very illogical conclusion. Think about all the regulations and subsidies that allow AT&T (DSL) or Comcast (cable) to be my only choices for broadband and try to draw equivalents to criminal law. I dare you. Try to have a little rationality, please.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Are there actually laws? I don’t know, but I think it’s more like the market. If AT&T wants to triple dip as you’re describing, I’m going to use Sprint or Qwest.

Yes, there are actually laws, and they empower FCC regulations. As for going to a different phone company, that’s an option the vast majority don’t have.

Bob says:

Make the Central Offices Wholesale only

I would also liketo see legislation that takes all the Central Offices, COs, and split them off from th eparent RBOCs into seperate wholesale only providers, no retail. By doing this the gates for competition to the end users,residentail and commercial, would be wide open. Of course there would need to be some clear tariffs for the new wholesale providers so they don’t drive up prices artifically. If the COs were all wholesale, there would be no problem for competing companies getting space in the CO and access to the copper and fiber going to homes and businesses. Combine this with doing away with franchises and making it easier to get access to exisiting right-of-ways, and competition would be great, and the consumer wins.

Bob says:

Central Offices Wholesale - Not an Assumption

Sorry, but this is not an assumption. Where I live Verizon controls/owns all the COs. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the RBOCs to allow competing companies to purchase space and access to fiber and copper going to customers. But it’s a big joke. Most competitors still find it extremely difficult to get into the COs and the fines the RBOCs like Verizon have to pay are small compared to the money they would lose if they complied with the law, not to mention the fact that they have so many Congressmen and FCC people in their pockets. I live within 1/2 mile from the CO I get phone service from, Verizon is now moving on to FIOS, but I still can’t get even DSL, and probably never will. Since I live in a more rural area, the density does not justify to Verizon the cost of install the needed equipment to supply DSL or FIOS, even though they get money every year from the FCC to compensate for just this type of cost, the cost of supplying services to rural areas. So my only option is comcast cable, and they know it. For just Internet access I am paying $57.95/month. Although I live in a more rural area, I’m not talking about everyone having 10 acres or more, most people have one or two acres, mixed with people who have from 10 to 20 acres. There are plently of homes to make it worth someones investment to install the equipment, but first they have to get into the COs, and Verizon makes sure that doesn’t happen.

Bob says:

Let's give them all a big tax break

Hey, I know, just like Bush gave all the big oil companies huge tax breaks to incentivize them to do more exploration and find new domestic sources for oil, etc, etc. Perhaps we should give all the big telecommunications companies a big tax break too, this would surely result in lower prices and improved service to the consumer right? Wrong!

You can’t trust big corporations, trickle down does not work, never will. I’m not saying we have to punish them, just make the rules to keep them in line, they will not do it on their own. Time has proven this again and again.

PS: I didn’t mean to get to far off the subject of this thread, but I just couldn’t help but notice the similarities. Anyway, I hope whoever gets into the white house, repeals the oil company tax cut and actually re-institutes the windfall profits tax on them.

Rose M. Welch says:

Why can't they...

…branch out and let people use thier lines, like the small telephone companies are allowed to use the lines that ‘belong’ to SBC-AT&T? They’re already there and the smaller businesses ensure that we can choose among many providers who have varying rates and services, with SBC-AT&T being at the top of the cost pole.

For instance, cable in my city runs along the same poles that electric does. Those poles and land belong to the City, i.e. the residents of the city. Right now, to have cable internet, I have to purchase cable television also, which is crap as it doubles my bill for something I don’t want and don’t use. But the only real alternative is the DSL that crappy in this town and the wireless that’s even worse.

Clueby4 says:

You can't be this stupid, right?

Either you don’t understand what right of way is or you’re being intentionally OBTUSE. So let’s get rid of regulations saying who can tear up private/public property. Let’s get rid of the FCC too, just pick a frequency.

I love these “we just need competition” droolers. They always seem to forget one VERY IMPORTANT FACT. In order to provide these services the companies involved must use PUBLIC/PRIVATE property, be it wired or wireless.

So, to just let the market decide is quite frankly impossible since your ALWAYS talking about PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE. Hence why you want regulations, part of the telecommunications act forced providers to sell their infrastructure at cost was a step in the right direction but then corruption seeped and it was “decided” cable companies were different. Guess cable companies claim the used magic tubes to send their signal.

Until the day comes where telephone, power, cable, etc companies have to pay property owners, or in the case of wireless all those within broadcasting range of the signal for use of THEIR property/airwaves the little fairy tale that is “free market” only exist in the minds of the deluded.

Whitehat says:

Broadband Competition

What not one of you seems to understand is that THERE ARE NO EXCLUSIVE CABLE FRANCHISES. Wire line providers all have to use the municipal right-of-way. Each local government has the obligation to make sure that anyone who wants to use the ROW is willing to compete on a level playing field and can prove that he/she has the financial resources necessary to protect the municipality and its residents from any damage or harm they may cause. Be able and willing to do so and even you can get a local cable franchise. There will NEVER be multiple direct competitors in a market. It costs too much to build plant and there aren’t enough customers per mile in any area to make it financially feasible to have more than two providers in an area. Most areas can’t support two wireline cable-type competitors. Many municipalities have granted multiple local cable franchises – and the 2nd company into the market couldn’t make it financially. The so-called “pro-competition” (deregulation) legislation passed in some states has only strengthened the hold of the incumbent provider. In North Carolina more than 100 state franchises have been issued during the past year… ALL to the incumbent local franchise holder. NO competitors have come into the market. Most of you remind me of the fable about the blind men and the elephant. If you’re not familiar with the story – look it up.

saveaccess (user link) says:

franchise clarity

Whoa – back up a bit. Keep in mind that current local and municipal cable franchises only slightly regulate cable tv services (Right of way, PEG, red-lining, basic cable pricing) – not internet and IP telephony services which fall under other regulatory rules. These are not monopoly franchises either – any company can apply for and receive the right to offer cable services in the same municipality. The fact that few do is because that cable companies know that level of overbuilding just isn’t profitable – so they choose instead to divide territories amongst themselves.

The AT&T driven state-wide franchises passed in 19 states simply eliminate most municipal oversight and fast tracks AT&T roll-outs to the communities of their choosing. In two years of state franchises – this ‘compeition’ has not resulted in lower prices nor better services – anywhere.

Finally – if you’re concerned about affordable and competitive internet access – you should be looking at the FCC and the Supreme Court’s 2005 “Brand X” decision. This decision effectively deregulated cable broadband internet service and as a result eliminated most small providers. If anything has impacted on the loss of real competition and the greater concentration of ownership – it was this decision.

Unpacking the Brand X Decision

No Quarter for the Time Warner Bandwidth Rationing Plan

Whitehat says:

Re: franchise clarity

Only the smallest of operators offers only one of these services any more. And what little municipal oversight was provided by local franchises it at least kept the local cable oeprator from going crazy. As an ex-cable system manager; I appreciated some of the franchise requirements. The helped me get the budget to implement some of the customer service support needed to actuall keep customer happy and on the system. Operators will be looking to cost reductions (read: “less service”) to improve margins. The North Carolina General Assembly didn’t empower anyone to enforce even minumal customer service requirements.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
04:48 Dumb Telecom Take Of The Week: Because The Internet Didn't Explode, Killing Net Neutrality Must Not Have Mattered (23)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
04:55 Axios Parrots A Lot Of Dumb, Debunked Nonsense About Net Neutrality (54)
10:50 NY AG Proves Broadband Industry Funded Phony Public Support For Attack On Net Neutrality (10)
06:24 The GOP Is Using Veterans As Props To Demonize Net Neutrality (22)
06:03 Telecom Using Veterans As Props To Demonize California's New Net Neutrality Law (12)
09:32 AT&T Whines That California Net Neutrality Rules Are Forcing It To Behave (11)
06:23 The New York Times (Falsely) Informs Its 7 Million Readers Net Neutrality Is 'Pointless' (51)
15:34 Facebook's Australian News Ban Did Demonstrate The Evil Of Zero Rating (18)
04:58 'Net Neutrality Hurt Internet Infrastructure Investment' Is The Bad Faith Lie That Simply Won't Die (11)
05:48 Dumb New GOP Talking Point: If You Restore Net Neutrality, You HAVE To Kill Section 230. Just Because! (66)
06:31 DOJ Drops Ridiculous Trump-Era Lawsuit Against California For Passing Net Neutrality Rules (13)
06:27 The Wall Street Journal Kisses Big Telecom's Ass In Whiny Screed About 'Big Tech' (13)
10:45 New Interim FCC Boss Jessica Rosenworcel Will Likely Restore Net Neutrality, Just Not Yet (5)
15:30 Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship' ... By Blocking Access To Them Entirely (81)
05:29 A Few Reminders Before The Tired Net Neutrality Debate Is Rekindled (13)
06:22 U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality. (12)
12:10 FCC Ignores The Courts, Finalizes Facts-Optional Repeal Of Net Neutrality (19)
10:46 It's Opposite Day At The FCC: Rejects All Its Own Legal Arguments Against Net Neutrality To Claim It Can Be The Internet Speech Police (13)
12:05 Blatant Hypocrite Ajit Pai Decides To Move Forward With Bogus, Unconstitutional Rulemaking On Section 230 (178)
06:49 FCC's Pai Puts Final Bullet In Net Neutrality Ahead Of Potential Demotion (25)
06:31 The EU Makes It Clear That 'Zero Rating' Violates Net Neutrality (6)
06:22 DOJ Continues Its Quest To Kill Net Neutrality (And Consumer Protection In General) In California (11)
11:08 Hypocritical AT&T Makes A Mockery Of Itself; Says 230 Should Be Reformed For Real Net Neutrality (28)
06:20 Trump, Big Telecom Continue Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (19)
06:11 Senators Wyden And Markey Make It Clear AT&T Is Violating Net Neutrality (13)
06:31 Net Neutrali-what? AT&T's New Streaming Service Won't Count Against Its Broadband Caps. But Netflix Will. (25)
06:23 Telecom's Latest Dumb Claim: The Internet Only Works During A Pandemic Because We Killed Net Neutrality (49)
13:36 Ex-FCC Staffer Says FCC Authority Given Up In Net Neutrality Repeal Sure Would Prove Handy In A Crisis (13)
06:27 Clarence Thomas Regrets Brand X Decision That Paved Way For The Net Neutrality Wars (11)
More arrow