Now Net Neutrality Will Ban Ad-Based Network Business Models?

from the say-what-now? dept

We've been dismayed at some of the really questionable or outright dishonest statements made by those paid by the telco industry on the issue of net neutrality. They keep distorting the debate -- which is disappointing, because there are reasonable arguments against net neutrality legislation. We just don't seem to hear them from the think tankers and the shills (sometimes, though not always, they're the same thing). The latest is a long piece by Hance Haney, who is certainly quite knowledgeable and experienced on the topic, but who writes up a long post explaining why enforcing net neutrality as a condition of the AT&T/BellSouth merger will make it that much more difficult for the US to have "world-class internet infrastructure." Amusingly, he points to the situations in South Korea and Japan as evidence of why the US needs better, cheaper broadband, failing to include the bit about how heavily state-supported both of these efforts were. Considering that he's warning about how it will stifle growth here to have the government involved, it's pretty bad to see him raise up those examples as reasons why we need less government regulation. He also says that AT&T/BellSouth wouldn't block web sites or degrade service, despite the fact that they've said they wanted to in the past. Hance, instead, says it's no problem since AT&T's CEO has promised he'd never do that (going against his own earlier statements). Of course, we've seen the telcos go back on their promises before -- so forgive us for being skeptical.

However, the meat of his piece is to suggest that if network neutrality rules were put in place, it would mean that telcos would be unable to experiment with business models that involved using advertising as a subsidy. Of course, he leaves out the part where he explains why this is. He just states it as true, when there's simply no evidence to support that being the case. A non-discrimination clause (while problematic in other ways), would not limit a telco from offering broadband service that's supported by advertising -- and there were even attempts (which failed miserably) to offer such services in the past. He even makes it sound like Google and Yahoo are somehow taking money out of the telcos hands by being able to advertise without having to give up a piece of it to the telcos ("content providers like Google, Yahoo and eBay get to keep every dollar spent on online advertising.") That's because those providers already pay the telcos for their bandwidth and provide the actual pages on which the advertisers advertise. What they do with it, is none of the telcos concern -- which is the point the network neutrality folks keep trying to get across. While I'm still worried about any new legislation that gives the government more power to regulate the internet, it's disturbing to see the continued batch of bad arguments coming out in favor of the telco position. It doesn't help their cause at all. It just makes it look like they don't have a real argument.
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  1. identicon
    Rstr5105, 2 Nov 2006 @ 8:00pm

    Woot! First!

    This appears to be yet another case of the telcos trying to tell us how the internet is supposed to be withot bothering to take a second to trace the roots of the net.

    For those of us that don't know, the internet started as a way for universities to transmit data back and forth faster than the ol' sneaker net method. This worked well so DARPA signed on and funded it for a while. Eventually the DoD built it's own net, and DARPA funding ceased.

    It was at this point that AT&T (as well as a few others) signed on and formed the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium(Don't quote me on the consortium part) The W3C stated very clearly that the internet was to be used specifically for non-commercial gain. (IE Even E-Bay would not be allowed to operate under the original paramaters of the W3C.)

    Then the Internet went public, I believe, although I'm not sure if this is correct, it started with a few professors and business men saying something along the lines of "Hey, this is a good thing, now if only I could connect to my computer at work from my computer at home". It spiraled out from there.

    I don't know what caused the massive build up of the web that we saw in the nineties, but now everyone is "On Line" and looking to make a few bucks. It seems to me that although we have this powerful tool at our disposal, we are corrupting it by allowing it to remain in the hands of the telco's.

    It also seems to me, that under the terms of the original W3C, (I don't know what it's current rules are) the telco's weren't allowed to charge for the ability to connect to the net. YES, they had to run the cables to feed it, YES they have to run the servers we all log into and NO i don't have a problem paying them to be able to connect to the net, but it seems against what the net started as for them to be able to say, "Unless you pay this much a month you're going to be limited to seeing websites at a slower speed than somebody who pays $XX.YY a month."

    Okay sorry for the long post, but it's my two (four?) cents on this issue.

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