DOJ on Net Neutrality: 'What AT&T Said.'
If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the U.S. Justice Department’s ex parte filing on Net neutrality was intended as a synopsis of AT&T’s filing on the same subject, such are the similarities between the two.
In comments delivered to the Federal Communications Commission yesterday, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division warned that imposing Net neutrality regulations could hamper development of the Internet and prevent service providers from upgrading or expanding their networks. “Precluding broadband providers from charging content and application providers directly for faster or more reliable service could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers,” the agency said in its filing. “If the average consumer is unwilling or unable to pay more for broadband Internet access, the result could be to reduce or delay critical network expansion and improvement.”
And, in the end, creating different tiers of Internet service is really no different than the Postal Service charging different rates for shipping varying classes of mail. “The United States Postal Service, for example, allows consumers to send packages with a variety of different delivery guarantees and speeds, from bulk mail to overnight delivery,” the agency explained. “These differentiated products respond to market demand and expand consumer choice. No one challenges the benefits to society of these differentiated products; nor does anyone seriously propose that the United States Postal Service be banned from charging different fees for next-day delivery than for bulk mailers.”
Right. And like BellSouth CTO William Smith has been saying for years now, providing Internet service is the shipping business of the digital age.
Internet advocacy groups were predictably peeved by the Justice Department’s filing. “It is at odds with reality for a Justice Department that approved the largest telecommunications merger in history with a mere press release to now claim that market forces and antitrust enforcement will be able to protect the free and open Internet,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge. “Perhaps the DoJ does not recall that there is very little in the way of market forces to protect consumers. Perhaps the department has forgotten that many consumers have little or no choice at all for their high-speed broadband services. A more vigorous antitrust analysis would have recognized there is a market failure and would have resulted in conditions on the AT&T takeover of BellSouth that would have benefited consumers and Internet companies.”