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Net Neutrality Nonsense

For the past few weeks, my partner in crime, Preston Gralla, has bombarded you poor folk with his diatribe on Net Neutrality. He's referred to AT&T and other carriers as running a " Soprano-like business model". He's warned you how...

For the past few weeks, my partner in crime, Preston Gralla, has bombarded you poor folk with his diatribe on Net Neutrality. He's referred to AT&T and other carriers as running a " Soprano-like business model". He's warned you how FCC chief Kevin Martin's interpretation of Net Neutrality was "far too narrow" that could ultimately help "end Internet and network innovation". And he's implored Congress to prevent AT&T and their bundies from charging "extortion fees". What should have been a sensible discussion has reached religious dimensions. Preston's got it all wrong. The AT&Ts of the world aren't wrong for insisting on differentiated service qualities. They're just offering consumers what business has been able to purchase for years. Companies that need a service with low-jitter to run a voice application have been able to purchase those lines by paying extra for those capabilities.

The public Internet should be no different. If users want a better-quality experience they should pay more. It's a business and as in any business, quality translates into higher prices. Is it fair that Business Class customers get better treatment than Economy class? You bet.

In fact what's not fair about the Net Neutrality debate is the lack of a "Quality Tax". It's really not fair that you and I who want to enjoy quality VoIP and video across the Internet are held hostage to the 16-year-old gamers and P2P file swappers down the street. They're jacking in for their daily dose of virtual slaughter or movie theft kills our phone conversations and forces us, or least me, to switch to the PSTN.

Net neutrality advocates whine about how the evil service providers will block the content providers from dishing up the content we want to see. I say let them try. Market dynamics will correct the problem. Just how many customers will want AT&T's service if Google isn't available?

Dave Passmore, research director at Burton, points out that in regions where there's a monopoly or duopoly on Internet access users won't be able to exert the market influence needed to get providers to change their evil ways. Yet there are plenty of instances of fierce competition even in a duopoly. In fact, Dave points out one himself: his own experience of Cox Cable's massive price cuts had to drop prices ??? and service quality ??? in response to competition from Verizon. (It's a great anecdote and one that's well worth reading. Check our Dave's column in the April issue of BCR Magazine .) What's more, the vast majority of 44.35 million broadband customers in the US have a choice of more than two ISPs, notes Jason Kowal, managing director of TeleGeography.

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