For all of the bad arguments we see against network neutrality legislation, at the very least they come from a basic (if skewed) free market rationale. They very much focus on the idea of keeping the government out of the process (which is somewhat amusing when you consider how many favors, tax breaks, government-granted rights of ways and subsidies were used to get the telcos to where they are today). While it was AT&T's Ed Whitacre who kicked off the latest round of net neutrality debates a year ago by saying that companies like Google should pay AT&T for delivering their content, at least he was talking about a private deal between two companies. More recently, the telcos have backed away from the idea that Google owes them money for a free ride, perhaps because it's idiotically wrong and provably false. That's resulted in some net neutrality critics saying that the telcos would never, ever block a service like Google (despite their own earlier statements).
Apparently, however, someone forgot to tell all of that to Canadian cable company Videotron, who's chief stirred up the pot by not only suggesting that all of these internet companies are getting a free ride on his network, but tossing out all the "free market" "hands off" crap to come right out and say he thinks the government should put a "transmission tariff" on various internet service to help fund the ability for his company to build a new network. Somehow, I think Robert Depatie may have lost a bunch of support from free market think tankers on that suggestion. Of course, there is no fundamental reason for this, other than greed from a company who wants more money from the government because it's unable or simply too lazy to build up its own business. David Canton responds to this suggestion the same way some of us suggested Google should respond to the earlier suggestions that they were getting a free ride: they should ask the telcos to pay them. After all, it's services like Google and Apple and Amazon that make the broadband lines the telcos and cable companies provide valuable. The problem is that these telcos and cable companies think they have the power position here, when they don't. Or, perhaps, in this case, Videotron realizes it doesn't have the power position, which is why it's asking for the government to step in and force Google to pay up.
Friday, November 03, 2006