The importance of net neutrality

I’m now convinced that Net Neutrality is one of the most important regulations for maintaining innovation and economic progress on the web.

Why? Because without it, telecoms can begin picking winners, favoring their own services and crippling other services such as Facebook and Google.

This is not a theoretical claim, but a very real threat, even to tech giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. So much so, that virtually every major tech company signed a pro-net neutrality letter to the FCC in 2014. http://www.theverge.com/…/569…/tech-coalition-challenges-fcc

Telecoms, with their vast networks and high fixed costs, tend towards monopoly. AT&T was a monopoly, and even after the Government broke up AT&T, the baby bells reconsolidated. Verizon, for example, is a baby bell.

With their monopoly control over consumer communications, telcos HAVE ALREADY started giving preferential treatment to their own content. Verizon’s Go90 video service doesn’t incur mobile data charges.

Similarly, these giants can stifle competition. In 2009, AT&T pressured Apple to ban Skype from the App Store. Skype competes with AT&T’s calling services, then a major partner with Apple. Only after FCC pressure did AT&T relent. See https://www.wired.com/2009/10/iphone-att-skype/

Although these seem small and trivial, taken to their logical extremes, this abuse of power can be terrifying. And, historically the economic costs of such abuse are incalculable. David Sarnoff, head of RCA (which later launched NBC), suppressed FM Radio for ten years and stifled the nascent television industry, bullying their respective inventors. FM Radio inventor Edwin Armstrong eventually committed suicide and TV inventor, Philo Farnsworth, ended up an alcoholic after fighting Sarnoff for years. It wasn’t that Sarnoff didn’t believe in Radio or TV, he simply refused to be disrupted, and used all his economic power to stifle innovation until he could control it.

Indeed, the first consumer dial-up modem, was not made possible until the FCC regulated AT&T (seehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_coupler).

It’s not free market competition, but monopolist bullying and backdoor dealings. Imagine if AT&T had never been broken up, and third party extensions such as a modem were never allowed? What a different age we’d be living in today.