Net Neutrality and CTIA Straw Men
Read FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s speech on net neutrality and then read the CTIA’s response to it. I’m not sure these two letters are about the same thing. Here’s a quote from the CTIA response:
As a justification for the adoption of rules, the Chairman suggested that one reason for concern “has to do with limited competition among service providers.” This is at the core of our concerns.Unlike the other platforms that would be subject to the rules, the wireless industry is extremely competitive, extremely innovative, and extremely personal. How do the rules apply to the single-purpose Amazon Kindle? How does it apply to Google’s efforts to cache content to provide a better consumer experience? How about the efforts from Apple and Android, Blackberry and Nokia, Firefly and others to differentiate the products and services they develop for consumers? Should all product and service offerings be the same?
I will agree there is more competition in the wireless space than there is for wire or fiber-based Internet service. However, the examples that the CTIA is offering up as questions don’t really apply to the FCC’s domain. If anything, Google, Nokia, Apple and others are simply customers of the operators and these new rules would benefit them just fine.
The next paragraph in the CTIA statement says a lot more about what the carriers think about net neutrality:
Regarding spectrum investment, the Commission need only look at the results of the 700 MHz auction to understand the impact on investment. The C Block rules, which included an open requirement, had only two bidders, and sold for significantly less. The other licenses, which sold for significantly more, were sold with the promise that the spectrum would not be subject to the open rules. Now the Commission is considering changing the rules after the auction — impacting companies’ confidence in the auction process — just as carriers are facing a brewing spectrum crisis.
The reason this block of spectrum didn’t garner more money is because the operators are, surprise surprise, against net neutrality principles. They did not want to be subject to open rules, thus they didn’t bid on the spectrum. It speaks nothing about the ecosystem around the network (e.g. the device manufacturers, other service providers), which I expect would flourish under more open rules.
Whether or not the wired/fiber network connections have less competition than their wireless brethren, it doesn’t matter. The FCC is generally proposing to treat wired and wireless Internet under the same rules. “Robust competition” is not a valid reason for being exempt from these rules, should they come to pass.
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