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Argument: Markets force network owners to play fair and neutral

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Supporting quotations

"Network Neutrality is Not in Danger." The Cato Institute: "Advocates of regulation greatly underestimate the durability of the Internet’s open architecture. They seem to think that Comcast, AT&T, or other Internet firms can simply flip a switch somewhere and transform the Internet into a proprietary network. The reality is very different.

To see why, let’s consider the last big network neutrality dispute: Comcast’s interference with BitTorrent traffic. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file-sharing application that is used for a wide variety of purposes. One significant application is the sharing of pirated music and movies. BitTorrent traffic has been growing rapidly, and Comcast, in an effort to reduce congestion on its network, implemented a scheme that interfered with BitTorrent traffic.

Many commentators, myself included, roundly criticized Comcast for this. Not only did Comcast violate network neutrality, and not only did it choose a clumsy technique that violated important technical standards and interfered with unrelated traffic, but Comcast also refused to explain to customers what it was doing and why.

But when the mainstream media reported on Comcast’s actions last August, two important things happened within a few months. First, there was a significant consumer backlash. Faced with bad press, Comcast backpedaled, first denying that it was interfering with BitTorrent traffic at all, then giving misleading accounts of what it was doing, and finally admitting that it was, indeed, interfering with BitTorrent traffic. By this March, Comcast was pledging to stop blocking BitTorrent traffic. At the same time, BitTorrent users took matters into their own hands and began swapping tips for evading Comcast’s interference. Many of them started using an encrypted variant of the BitTorrent protocol that was able to sneak by Comcast’s filters. Even if Comcast had wanted to continue blocking BitTorrent traffic, its efforts would have gotten less effective over time, as more and more users switched to the encrypted version of the program."

"Say No to 'Net Neutrality' Rules." Newsweek. March 16th, 2006: "First, the Net neutrality principles endorsed by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners are working in the marketplace right now. In fact, they are similar to connectivity principles issued by the High-Tech Broadband Coalition several years ago. Both state that consumers should have full access to any legal content on the Internet using any device or application, and should receive accurate information about any limitation on their Internet access services. Verizon supports and abides by these principles.

Second, if an industry player does not live up to the Internet neutrality principles, that company is sure to be quickly held accountable. Not only does the FCC monitor the situation to protect consumer and company interests, it will act where appropriate, as it did in the case of a small company last year that tried to block Internet voice calls. And the public and media outrage was severe, as it should have been, demonstrating again that market forces do work.

[...] HANDS-OFF APPROACH. Not only is an open and accessible public Internet the right public policy, it's smart business. Clearly, Verizon would lose customers if it didn't provide them access to what they wanted. Consumers deserve complete confidence that they will always have the full Internet access they pay for, and it is in consumers' and the industry's interests that potential bad actors know they are severely outnumbered.

As we observe with dismay what happens in other world markets -- China, for one -- when governments try to control the Internet, we can be thankful that Congress' hands-off approach to the Internet and broadband has created a thriving marketplace in which the consumer is in charge and businesses compete and innovate. There is nothing on the horizon that will change any of this, unless Washington gets in the way."

"EDITORIAL: Net neutrality. Another solution in search of a problem." March 18th, 2010. Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Internet service providers know their customers are a fickle lot. After all, consumers have lots of choices. If a company decides to sign on more subscribers than its network can accommodate without making corresponding investments in capacity, those subscribers won't stand for having their computers seize during routine browsing and searching. They'll jump ship. Companies have no incentive to hurt one group of paying customers in favor of another."

Arpan Sura. "The Problem With Network Neutrality". FreedomWorks. May 2, 2006: "Proponents of network neutrality imagine that if unrestrained, ISPs would block large portions of the Internet, and make other parts of the Internet accessible only behind a high-pay wall. While this is possible in theory, robust competition among service providers ensures companies will be punished for providing such egregious service. There are plenty of access providers: cable and phone companies and cooperatives, national ISPs such as EarthLink and AOL, wireless service providers and WiFi networks, and now, potentially two-way national satellite transmission. If any company adopted the measures network neutrality supporters envision, customers would jump ship to an ISP that gives better service."

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