Why Do Content Companies Want Net Neutrality?

by on September 30, 2009 · 9 comments

Last Wednesday, Holman Jenkins penned a column in The Wall Street Journal about net neutrality (Adam discussed it here). In response, I have a letter to the editor in today’s The Wall Street Journal:

To the Editor:

Mr. Jenkins suggests that Google would likely “shriek” if a startup were to mount its servers inside the network of a telecom provider. Google already does just that. It is called “edge caching,” and it is employed by many content companies to keep costs down.

It is puzzling, then, why Google continues to support net neutrality. As long as Google produces content that consumers value, they will demand an unfettered Internet pipe. Political battles aside, content and infrastructure companies have an inherently symbiotic relationship.

Fears that Internet providers will, absent new rules, stifle user access to content are overblown. If a provider were to, say, block or degrade YouTube videos, its customers would likely revolt and go elsewhere. Or they would adopt encrypted network tunnels, which route around Internet roadblocks.

Not every market dispute warrants a government response. Battling giants like Google and AT&T can resolve network tensions by themselves.

Ryan Radia

Competitive Enterprise Institute


To be sure, the market for residential Internet service is not all that competitive in some parts of the country — Rochester, New York, for instance — so a provider might in some cases be able to get away with unsavory practices for a sustained period without suffering the consequences. Yet ISP competition is on the rise, and a growing number of Americans have access to three or more providers. This is especially true in big cities like Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.

Instead of trying to put a band-aid on problems that stem from insufficient ISP competition, the FCC should focus on reforming obsolete government rules that prevent ISP competition from emerging. Massive swaths of valuable spectrum remain unavailable to would-be ISP entrants, and municipal franchising rules make it incredibly difficult to lay new wire in public rights-of-way for the purpose of delivering bundled data and video services.

Previous post:

Next post: