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Dept. of Justice Comes Down on Net Neutrality




Forget pipes—the Internet is all about postage and packages now. Just ask the U.S. Department of Justice. For some reason, they seem to think that the fact that the USPS “allows consumers to send packages with a variety of different delivery guarantees and speeds, from bulk mail to overnight delivery” means that the US government cannot legislate or enforce net neutrality.

The DoJ weighed in on the issue for the FCC, the body that is supposed to regulate television, telephone and related industries. Rumor has it, though, that the FCC’s governing board is deeply divided over net neutrality.

If you’re not familiar with net neutrality, the basic premise is that telecom companies want to charge more for accessing certain types or sources of content. The biggest specter raised anti-telecommers always seems to be telecoms creating a “two tiered” Internet, where users have to pay extra to visit search engines or watch video.

The Financial Times puts it more gently:

The big telecoms carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Communications and cable operators like Comcast that would like the option to charge some users extra fees for carrying certain web content such as video.

The Financial Times also paraphrased the DoJ: “differentiating service levels and pricing is a common and often efficient way of allocating scarce resources and satisfying consumer demand.”

Call me crazy, but I could have sworn I was already paying extra for a “differentiated service level” and the ability to access video content with my huge bandwidth bill.

Let’s assume that the “some users” they’ll be charging would include, say, the users actually accessing video. Heck, I’ll even narrow it to the ones streaming video.

Oh, wait. According to comScore, that would be 75% of US Internet users, or 132 million people (that would also be about 44% of the total US population). So three-quarters of Internet users should pay more to keep getting what they’ve been getting so that the other one-quarter can pay the same for the features that they’re not using?

The Financial Times paraphrases and quotes the DoJ’s comments:

[P]recluding broadband providers from charging content and application providers directly for faster or more reliable service, “could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements on to consumers”.

So, let me go through this one more time. We’ll charge 75% of the Internet population more for the same services they get now (to save the other 25% some money) so that, somehow, the cost of infrastructure upgrades will not be passed on to the consumer. Oh but wait, that 75%’s hard-earned money is already paying for the infrastructure upgrades. Yeah, that’s sure to keep the cost off the consumers.

Let’s cut to the chase: the people at the DoJ (or at least the ones who wrote this, since I’m sure some of them are over on YouTube right now) are in the 25%.

  • Feldspar McCrae

    I smell payoffs. Big corporations and every level of politics are all about graft.

  • Feldspar McCrae

    The DOJ’s opinion was ex parte (late) because they were holding out for more cash from the mega-corporations.

  • Jordan McCollum

    ex parte: “On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party. For example, a request for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, since the person subject to the search is not notified of the proceeding and is not present at the hearing.”

    As far as I’ve seen, there was no deadline they were meeting, so I don’t think it was late. However, I’m trying to figure out what the legal term for “None of your business” is.

  • http://www.blogcontentprovider.com Allen Taylor

    I don’t know what the legal term for “none of your business” is, but “laissez faire” is French for “leave us alone.” That could be construed as “none of your business.”

  • http://babbly.com Riotz

    “the people at the DoJ (or at least the ones who wrote this, since I’m sure some of them are over on YouTube right now) are in the 25%.”

    I think the DOJ is still using dumb terminals and Lynx :D

  • http://www.qdoos.com Buy and sell

    So i guess if this does happen eventually only Americans will be affected?

  • Jordan McCollum

    B&S—Maybe. But this comment on Google Blogscoped insightfully points out that lots of other nations would be impacted.

  • http://www.vbulletin-faq.com Joeychgo

    This was little more then an attempt to get more money into the hands of the telecom companies.

  • http://seoroi.com/ Net Neutrality, SEO and Internet Marketing Hit by DoJ

    Update: Other SEOs and marketing folk are discussing this issue. Jordan McCollum at Marketing Pilgrim is on it (funny… my girlfriend’s last name is McCollum too!) . Her write-up includes this killer quote, also discussing the likelihood that video users will be hit:

    “Oh, wait. According to comScore, that would be 75% of US Internet users, or 132 million people (that would also be about 44% of the total US population). So three-quarters of Internet users should pay more to keep getting what they’ve been getting so that the other one-quarter can pay the same for the features that they’re not using?”

  • http://seoroi.com/ Gab

    Hey, since they’re in the 25%, why don’t we make a video of this and make fun of them on Youtube? I could easily see that going viral… Interested in an interview?

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    I was disappointed when I heard the news the other day, though I can’t say I was surprised.

    I think it’s another case of greedy telecoms and clueless government coming to together to make a bad decision.

  • Jordan McCollum

    @Gab: Neat idea. I’ll have to bring it up with Andy.

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