Why am I not surprised? As you may have heard, this past Friday the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted against a bill which would have strengthened the concept of what has been termed "Net Neutrality".
For those of you who may not be familiar with it, the principle of Net Neutrality basically prevents greedy telephone monopolies, cable companies, ISP's, etc., from offering better and unrestricted Internet services to those broadband customers who are willing to pay extra money for it, while at the same time, offering inferior quality, and more restricted services to those who aren't. In other words, the main idea behind the Net Neutrality principle is that everyone should be treated the same, and receive the same level and quality of broadband Internet service without partiality or restrictions. However, Net Neutrality does not rule out tiered rates systems, as far as I know.
The principle point of contention is that broadband providers feel that they have the right to regulate their Internet services as they see fit, while the FCC feels that said companies require more oversight in order to keep things fair and above table.
As I said, I am not the least bit surprised by the outcome of Friday's debate, or by the position that has been taken by Republicans -- and a few Democrats -- in the House. Whenever Big Business interests are involved, it is almost a certainty that the Republicans will be there to support them. This bill was no different, and the Republicans reacted according to expectations.
During the debate on Friday, each side accused the other of safeguarding the interests of big companies. Democrats said that Republicans were protecting the interests of the cable and phone company giants that are the dominant providers of broadband Internet service to American households. Those companies generally oppose the F.C.C. order, because they believe they need to be able to direct traffic on their networks as they see fit.
Republicans countered by accusing Democrats of protecting big technology companies, like Google, Amazon and Netflix, that have become successful because of the lack of Internet regulation but which now want to protect their turf from new competitors.
Few of the debaters raised some of the more technical issues that are at the center of the debate over broadband regulation, like specialized services and tiered rates. Specialized services, for which a broadband company uses part of its Internet pipeline to deliver dedicated services to specific customers, worry regulators who fear that companies will invest more to develop those more profitable offerings while neglecting to update basic broadband service.
Personally, considering how much we already pay for our broadband Internet service, I can't begin to imagine what would happen if these companies are not brought under tighter control. Then again, handing too much power to a government agency is worrisome as well.