The following is a question (and my response) from listener and show favorite, Vanessa G, posed to me earlier today on Facebook. I am posting it on the site for the benefit of others who are curious about the issue:

I want to know your thoughts on THIS. I’m read on the issue, but I think you probably know way more. Does “Net Neutrality” really equal government regulation? Or is this a conservative’s attempt at making light of corporate influence? I find it particularly timely considering the FCC just approved the Comcast/NBC merger.

This article is bullshit. 

The FCC is trying to bring the Internet’s regulation under their “jurisdiction” because if they don’t, ISP’s will be able to charge tiered access and cost plans based solely upon their best financial interests and not providing customers with many alternative options. Since ISP’s are trying to monetize the internet and their customer’s access to it (through their servers), they are arguing that the cost of providing that access is prohibitive to them and they need to be able to charge more or control access speeds to some content over others. They can / want to charge companies for faster access to their customer base, while stifling access to other sites and content for companies who don’t pay. They can / want to block your access to sites that may be considered a competitor of theirs or to their parent company (Example: An ISP run by a CBS owned company, might block its customers access to, an NBC owned site). 

Since competition is the driving force for keeping internet access costs down for customers, the FCC is trying to prevent ISP’s from having a monopoly in certain areas where other cable and internet companies aren’t available. Comcast, Brighthouse, Cox, Adelphia etc would like nothing more than to be “the only game in town” in some areas, thereby essentially forcing customers to use them or have no internet options at all. The FCC (as it relates to cable, since television is regulated by the FCC) is the one ensuring that homes be wired to receive signals from multiple cable providers…versus previously (and still the case in some areas), where you only had one option for who your cable provider could be based upon where you live. For television, customers can still turn to dish, but satellite does not currently provide internet access…you still have to use your local cable company for that…or go back to dial up (phone company…who, back in the day, also tried to charge for how many hours you were on). The FCC is trying to prevent this.

Think of it in terms of what the FCC did with radio. They regulated the industry to prevent certain radio companies (Cox Communications, Clear Channel etc) from owning more than a certain percentage of radio stations in any given market. The FCC didn’t want larger companies to own the majority of radio stations in certain (if not all) markets due to their simply having deeper pockets. There is a concern about editorial bias, media consolidation etc. Think of it as if Murdoch owned all the major radio stations in your market. Therefore content etc might have a certain spin or bias, although listeners don’t realize the stations they listen to are owned and operated by the same company. So it becomes an issue of controlling one form of media.

Same would be if Murdoch owned more than Fox News (had multiple cable news channels), then bought a cable company and ensured that other options (MSNBC, CNN etc) were not made available. 

NBC, CBS, ABC etc would have to be made available, because they are networks and essentially content made available for free over the airwaves that the FCC regulates and offers for free with a license. Whereas MSNBC, CNN are cable news that you pay for in your plan, but can’t be picked up over the air with an antennae. 

The FCC is actually the good guy in this, as they are trying to keep the internet fair and on a level playing field.

But the recent Supreme Court arguments are that the FCC technically does not have jurisdiction over the internet, just television and radio. The FCC is trying to bring the internet under them, so that they can regulate the influence of certain ISP’s and telecom companies, just as they have done with regulating television and radio stations. 

So this guy (article author) is trying to hide this fact by saying, “BIG GOVERNMENT WANTS TO CONTROL YOUR INTERNET!”, when in fact they (FCC) are trying to provide a level of consumer protection. 

I can go into a lot more, but let me know if this answers your question or covers the gist.

On a side note, I have NO sympathy for ISP’s that are bitching about the cost of servers and providing access to the internet (data). 

If they want to be competitive and continue to BE an ISP, that is the cost of doing business and attracting customers to choose them over a competitor.

– Dana

Additional Related SB Post: “The Internet Freedom Act of 2009″: What’s Pissing Me Off Today