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Brian Will on Net Neutrality

October 22, 2006

From this post comes this great analogy of the net neutrality debate:

Imagine that your power company decides that it wanted to open a line of supermarkets. At the same time, it sends out an announcement that supermarkets (due to their refrigeration requirements) are particularly heavy users of the electrical system, and as a result, the power company will add a 15% surcharge to the power bills of any building that it deems to be a supermarket. Of course, the power company’s own supermarkets are exempt from this fee. When the existing supermarkets complain, the power company says that they’re asking for special treatment and trying to get electricity “for free” and that if they don’t like its terms, they should buy their power from someone else.

And, as Brian points out later in his post:

what the telecoms are threatening to do is to charge a premium for how the utility is used, not for how much of it is used.

I think he hit the nail right on the head. As I’ve said before, internet providers in the U.S are not interested in increasing bandwidth to increase their profit. They want to profit more on what they already have in place. If they can prevent smaller companies from competing with their services, and, therefore, are only a handful of very large corporations controlling the broadband market, then their plan to charge differently for different uses of the network becomes possible. If there were healthy competition in the broadband market, would there even be a net neutrality debate? Do countries that have better broadband penetration than the U.S have more choices down the last mile? I just wonder what, exactly, is a practical solution to this problem?