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About That Title II Argument…

Published onFeb 26, 2015
About That Title II Argument…

As near as I can tell, this article by Holman Jenkins is the one that ignited a lot of libertarian concern trolling about Title II that basically didn’t exist until the end of 2014. And it’s essentially being read word for word in the FCC meeting right now. There are some interesting arguments in it worth considering. I don’t think anyone thinks Title II is an absolutely perfect solution.

But at a certain point, Jenkins says this:

We’re having this debate, though, not because net neutrality has become an urgent need of the marketplace. A long, long time ago, perhaps it was reasonable to fear telephone companies might try to block voice and messaging apps like Skype and FaceTime that compete with their traditional services. It was plausible that cable might slow or block Netflix or YouTube to protect its TV business.

That was a different eon. Consumer demand for these apps is now what keeps traditional phone and cable companies swimming in broadband profits. Their self-interest has been transformed. Verizon, a favorite net neut baddie, is giving away a year’s worth of free Netflix to new triple-play subscribers. Why? Because getting customers addicted to Netflix helps Verizon sell more broadband.

Lovely theory. Except, Netflix paid Comcast to deliver its services to end-users faster just last year, because they were throttling last-mile traffic, and the FCC is actively investigating Verizon for doing the same without telling anyone (link). That is not “a different eon.”

Jenkins ignores half the evidence because he wants to believe the market solves everything. And maybe on the surface it looks like the market is behaving well because Verizon is using Netflix to gain more customers, but the real situation is this: Verizon can make more money by promising consumers Netflix while simultaneously not delivering it to them unless Netflix pays for access. At the same time, it can privilege its own services, which don’t have to pay extra. So really, this is the market allowing a company to promise and charge consumers for services it doesn’t actually deliver. That’s the very definition of a vertical monopoly behaving monopolistically.

And that doesn’t even get into the fast lane stuff on the consumer side, which is an entirely separate problem. Oddly, he mentions is a problem and perhaps the main the flaw with Title II, all without explaining how doing nothing would fix it. So, maybe we need to do better than Title II as it exists today, but sorry, we need something, not the nothing Jenkins is advocating for.

By Gabriel Stein on February 26, 2015.

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Exported from Medium on October 22, 2020.

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