Friday, September 07, 2007

DOJ Opposes Net Neutrality,

Earlier today (Sept. 6), the Justice Department filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opposing Net Neutrality. The DoJ, supposedly the protector of consumers and guardian of competition, said that "market forces" were sufficient to do both of those jobs.

That view, of course, is nonsense. Perhaps the DoJ failed to recall that there are no "market forces," and that the market for broadband services is controlled by two industries and that consumers have very little choice. Just how little choice we have was made clear to me earlier this summer.

In August, my wife and I went to Jasper, Alberta, a little town in the northern part of Jasper National Park. One morning, we had breakfast with a couple we had met in an excursion around the area. They are from Derby (pronounced Darby), a city of about 233,000 located in the center of England, far from London.

The discussion got around to the question, "What do you do?" For the next 45 minutes or so, my wife Liz, a systems architect for IBM, and the English husband, an engineer, and his wife, an Information Technology instructor, had a lively discussion of Service Oriented Architecture, data modeling, data warehousing and the like. I wanted to know what kind of Internet connection he had.

It was a difficult choice, he and his wife said, because there were so many options. He had to make up a spreadsheet to figure out which service was best. Let us pause and consider this concept.

This U.K. consumer did something not one U.S. consumer can do. This broadband consumer in the U.K. has so many options - 59 Internet Service Providers that he needed a spreadsheet to figure them out. Here in the U.S., a similar customer might have two - the telephone company and cable company.

The contrast is staggering: a complex spreadsheet with 59 choices and several features for each vs. pre-kindergarten math of counting to two. The evidence is clear. From the consumer point of view, our Internet policies are a failure and a disgrace.

The details of the riches enjoyed by English customers are more staggering today than they were when the Derby spreadsheet was made in 2004. An English consumer magazine, Which?, on Aug. 2 published evaluations of 25 providers. Between them, those 25 providers have 125 separate service plans, and the magazine evaluates each of those on 35 separate factors. Most of the services are available nationwide.

You can read the rest at the Huffington Post.

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