As the network neutrality circus continues, the editorials continue to dribble out from the nation's largest papers. Unfortunately, most of them either repeat the same talking point ISP lobbyists have been using in 2005 (like the Wall Street Journal did last week
), repeating pre-fabricated opinions without the slightest regard for consumer welfare. The Washington Post
is the latest, running an editorial
yesterday complaining that the FCC's push to toughen up network neutrality rules is "heavy handed." According to the Post, Comcast's run in with the FCC is a prime example why network neutrality rules aren't needed:
(neutrality supporters argue that) left to their own devices, ISPs such as Comcast Corp. and AT&T will choke the free flow of information and technology. One example alluded to by the chairman: Comcast's blocking an application by BitTorrent that would allow peer-to-peer video sharing. Yet that conflict was ultimately resolved by the two companies -- without FCC intervention -- after Comcast's alleged bad behavior was exposed by a blogger.
That "blogger" was our users, who noticed Comcast's bad behavior back in May of 2007
. Only after we wrote countless articles
about Comcast's treatment of P2P traffic did major outlets like the Associated Press pay attention in October of 2007
. In January of 2009 the FCC announced they'd investigate Comcast. After months of semantic games and denials, facing an ocean of bad press, an angry FCC, and a lawsuit from Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum
for misleading consumers, Comcast finally buckled and implemented reasonable traffic management
Now while Comcast would certainly like the press and public to think they resolved everything organically and voluntarily under the miraculous auspices of the free market and their own bottomless good will, in reality the company would not have buckled without pressure from both the FCC and the Florida Attorney General. The Post either intentionally ignores the role government played just to stick to the "all regulation is bad" talking point, or they don't understand the historical context and finer details of what they're writing about.
Despite the fact the rules the Post takes issue with haven't even been fully written yet (the rule-making process doesn't even officially begin until next month), the paper is automatically certain the FCC's attempt to preserve "fundamental architecture of openness" will disrupt "a vibrant and well-functioning marketplace." The infectious meme that all regulation is inherently evil is lazy thinking, created by corporations and regurgitated by the papers they own. In reality, each instance of regulation needs to be measured independently.
That said, whether you support network neutrality rules or not (and plenty don't), one thing to remember is that you don't always need new regulation to make ISPs play nice. But at the very least you need the threat
of new regulations, and regulators with the authority to challenge carriers. The FCC's current effort to beef up their existing network neutrality principles
is simply an effort to retain authority in the face of legal assault from Comcast
. If regulators become utterly toothless, guess what happens to the Post's vision of well-behaved carriers?
By the way, it apparently slipped the Washington Post's mind to mention that they own a cable company by the name of Cable One
, who probably doesn't want the FCC meddling with the cable carrier's right to impose incredibly low caps at certain hours of the day
. We're sure that has nothing to do with why the Post is arguing against consumer best interests while regurgitating the industry's positions on network neutrality almost verbatim.