I would like to comment on the topic of Net Neutrality. Over the last 20 years the internet has fundamentally changed our lives. The unprecedented level of freedom that the internet offers has made these advancements possible. A lack of government interference has been a key aspect of this freedom, and I sympathetic to the argument that the government should continue to take a hands off approach.
The problem is that the companies who now control access to the internet also need to respect this freedom and openness. And it does not appear that they intend to do so. The internet is not free if we simply trade the shackles of government to the shackles of monopolies.
Most Americans have one, maybe two choices for internet access in their homes. There is no competition. The cable and internet providers have, as a consequence, become notorious as the most hated companies in the country. Allowing them to run amuck with the gates to the net are no better than allowing the government to do so.
What we need are same regulations hat protect consumers rights to a free and open internet.
By allowing companies to charge additional fees to web service providers will have a terrible chilling affect on the robust culture of innovation we have seen. A startup would be significantly disadvantaged by being unable to pay additional fees of established players. These startups have been the backbone of innovation in the internet age. The established players have spent the majority of their efforts blocking innovation.
But the most worrying aspect of allowing these giant companies to control the flow of data is that they also control the content. Comcast is not only the largest internet service provider, but it also controls a sizable amount of media. I find it hard to believe that they will not use this opportunity to strangle any competitor they seem a threat, no matter how small. Throw in the acquisition of Time Warner and we will have essentially appointed a king of the internet, and it is far from guaranteed he would be enlightened.
What I want to see is not government control of the internet. This would be as bad as corporate control of it. We need sane regulations that protect the openness of the net. Companies should not be allowed to double dip when it comes to cost. They should not be able to sell a service they do not provide. If I pay for a certain tier of data, I should get it, without the site on the other end also being charged to access me (beyond their own connection to the net, which they already pay). If they must charge more for access, that would be preferable to a shadow price hike that only affects some but not all.
I realize that this is not an easy task. Crafting the rules for internet access will be a daunting task. These rules must balance consumer rights with the rights of companies providing service to make money. I do not deny that they have a right to make money, they most certainly do. I ask only that they make their money honestly. And as we have seen in industry before, honesty requires oversight. Self regulation is not an option.
I thank you for your time in considering my comments.