by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
doj, fcc, net neutrality

Why Is The Justice Department Commenting On Net Neutrality?

from the not-really-their-area-of-interest dept

There's been a fair amount of chatter over the Justice Department's decision to comment to the FCC about network neutrality, but there's been almost no discussion as to why the Justice Department should be involved at all. It's true that the DOJ covers anti-trust issues, but this isn't about a merger or the potential to create a monopoly. While I'm not in favor of regulating network neutrality, there are a bunch of really questionable statements in the DOJ's filing that simply don't make much sense. Take, for example, the following statement: "Regulators should be careful not to impose regulations that could limit consumer choice and investment in broadband facilities." If the DOJ really feels that way, then shouldn't it have also come out against the FCC's decision to do-away with line sharing rules that actually did allow for competition? Does the DOJ not realize that the market for broadband is already heavily regulated, which is why most consumers here only have one or two choices -- compared to other countries that have created more open markets on top of the infrastructure, allowing for competition, faster speeds and increased innovation? Does the DOJ really not realize how many gov't subsidies and handouts have been given to the telcos so that they could build networks where no one else could enter the market in the same manner?

The DOJ also makes the bizarre argument that without breaking net neutrality, broadband providers will never make enough money to upgrade their networks. It's a dumb argument for the same reason that it's a dumb argument to claim that without network neutrality, it'll be too costly for certain sites to make enough money to offer cool services to users. Both arguments are ridiculous because they focus on the specific benefits to one private party and not how they impact the rest of the market -- and the DOJ shouldn't have any interest in focusing on the benefits of a single private party (and it's even worse for the DOJ to do so under the false guise of "free market" economics). Sure, without network neutrality telcos might be able to make more money in the short term. But you could just as easily argue that if network neutrality remains, it'll be easier (and cheaper) to create the next generation of killer apps that will make more bandwidth more valuable (allowing the telcos to profit handsomely). And, it's not even worth going into the DOJ's use of the thoroughly debunked claim comparing network neutrality to different delivery speeds at the post office. Basically, the DOJ brief (and, again, it's still not clear why they even have an opinion on this) repeats a bunch of the misleading half-truths that the telcos have spouted for months. Yet, it doesn't touch on the really key issue: there simply isn't real competition in the broadband market. Allowing the telcos to break network neutrality doesn't change that.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    The Business Perspective, 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:44pm

    NetNeutrality is Lies, Lies, Damned Lies

    AT&T had to divest much of their unused fiber as part of the terms for the BellSouth/SBC merger, and has to dig up the roads again to adequately compete with companies like Level3, which won a Smithsonian Award for a "Upgradable network".. As part of the divestiture, AT&T can't fully compete and bring most specifically, video to it's millions of customers across the USA. Also, it's interesting to note AT&T's involvement with the NSA, and that many senior folks at AT&T contributed to Bush's election.

    All the bandwidth in the world exists, but it's not in the hands of AT&T or Verizon... They have to partner with Level3 or Qwest or another major backbone provider.

    This whole debate is nothing more than the outcome of good lobbyists, by a company that decides to compete through legislative action, while hiding the core problem behind a very thin veil.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.