Competition and Net Neutrality
Should the Internet Remain a Highway of Freedom and Free Expression, or Become a Command-and-Control Toll Road that Inhibits Competition?
Since its creation the Internet has been user-driven, in contrast to traditional television and radio technologies. So, for example, with radio or television consumer choice is limited to programming presented by stations the consumer can access, but on the Internet consumers are able to select the information or content they choose to access, virtually without limits.
As the Internet has become primarily accessible through only traditional telephone and cable television providers, consumers and independent information/programming providers are concerned that Internet access providers may become bottlenecks and tollbooths that favor their own vertically-integrated information services, or that otherwise favor information providers that pay for “preferred” access to consumers.
DiMA members believe that competition benefits consumers and creators of information, and that anticompetitive behavior by content owners or networks owners should be challenged. DiMA supports network neutrality principles first presented by the High-Tech Broadband Coalition, which essentially state that consumers should be entitled to access lawful Internet content of their choice, run applications over the network that they choose, and attach devices to the network that they choose, so long as the content, applications and devices do not harm the network and so long as the consumer’s stays within the limits of a chosen planÃs bandwidth and quality of service.
Proponents of Net Neutrality legislation identify instances when Internet access providers have inhibited competition by blocking consumers use of independent VoIP service, and by prohibiting consumers from enjoying video programming over the IP network for more than ten consecutive minutes. Proponents also point to recent comments by AT&T Chairman Ed Whitacre, stating that his company intends to seek payment by independent information providers that heretofore have enjoyed “free” carriage to consumers over the Internet. Net Neutrality proponents assert that consumers already pay for network access, and that networks can seek higher prices from users of higher amounts of bandwidth – but that networks should not be able to discriminate against content providers based solely on the identity of the information source or the competitive attributes of the information being provided.