Three Reasons The GOP Hates Net Neutrality


In a letter to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Communications, Technology & the Internet Subcommittee, urged a thorough examination on the need for and impact of Net neutrality regulation.

"At first glance, Net neutrality regulations may appear reasonable and harmless, but a deeper examination reveals that Net neutrality is neither reasonable nor harmless," he wrote. "These mandates would harm consumers, reduce competition, and discourage new investment and innovation at a time of tremendous technological growth."

Here's a look at those three claims.

1. Reduce competition. Broadband carriers want Congress' permission to determine what content gets to Internet users first and fastest. But proponents of Net neutrality say broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their influence in the market to discriminate against competing applications or content. In other words, Comcast shouldn't slow down delivery of a movie if a user opts to use a download service other than Comcast's. Providers argue that the government shouldn't tell them how to manage their networks, and to do so would severely limit the number of companies that would be willing to play in the market.

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2. Discourage investment and innovation. In a statement to President Obama, Republicans John Boehner, House Minority Leader, and Minority Whip Eric Cantor wrote: "We believe that network neutrality regulations would actually thwart further broadband investment and availability, and that a well-reasoned broadband plan would confirm our view."

Further, wireless providers are worried that a surge in bandwidth-consuming applications such as video downloads could hobble their networks unless they are allowed to control the flow.

"We are concerned that the FCC appears ready to extend the entire array of Net neutrality requirements to what is perhaps the most competitive consumer market in America: wireless services," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in a statement late last month. He added that wireless networks are not only facing incredible bandwidth strains, but also require continued private investment and "proactive network management," to ensure service quality for 270 million customers.

3. Harm the consumer. If both No. 1 and No. 2 result from implementing Net neutrality on broadband and wireless networks, then customers would likely feel the sting. With fewer competitors, providers would have little to prevent them from raising rates to what the market will bear. That might leave some consumers completely without access. In addition, sparsely populated areas of the country may not be offered service at all, due to the low return on investment. A study would have to investigate the likelihood of competition and investment becoming stifled and whether that outweighed the problems of providers potentially throttling back bandwidth.