Weighing the Net Neutrality Debate

5:30 PM -- There are two compelling sides to the network neutrality issue before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) : to let the market sort itself out, encouraging competition within the marketplace between ISP providers; or to mandate all ISP providers open their networks to competitors and set standards for download and upload speeds, thereby ensuring everyone is treated equal. (See FCC Sets Sail on Internet Rulemaking .)

The first approach (letting the market forces solve things on their own) would work well if it were easy and inexpensive to get into the ISP business while building an infrastructure to support a broadband pipe sufficient enough handle the range of users, content, and applications needed to ensure true competition.

An alternative path, requiring the opening of ISP networks, could be viewed as a heavy-handed approach, though it does remove some of the burden from the private sector in deciding how and when to upgrade the network.

In my opinion, there needs to be a compromise between public and private sectors if there's to be a regulatory model that fosters innovation and competition that can be spread to all corners of the country.

But, from where I'm sitting, it appears that the FCC is going to regulate the ISPs. I don't see any other way around it. I'm not for heavy-handed regulation, but I don't see how else true open access can be accomplished.

— Leonard Grace, a cable industry vet, is a telecom strategist and blogger. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to Cable Digital News

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:51:02 PM
re: Weighing the Net Neutrality Debate


Did you really mean ASP - Access Service Provider?  I know it is common that this is the same company as the ISP, but it is not clear that ISP openness is as potentially important as ASP openness for net neutrality.



LeonardGrace 12/5/2012 | 3:51:00 PM
re: Weighing the Net Neutrality Debate Seven,

I did mean both, ISP's and ASP's. Thanks for clarifying the distinction.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:50:59 PM
re: Weighing the Net Neutrality Debate


The reason I bring it up is your commentary about ISP competition.  In fact, an ISP is not costly to build.  The majority of the capital costs and time are on the ASP side.  However, we have the issue that ASPs did a good job at minimizing the value of ISPs, especially in broadband.  On top of that, they have basically defeated independent ISPs in Wireless, Cable, and Deep Fiber architectures.

So, two things are not clear to me about your post:

1 - Why the commentary - except potential issues - about ISPs?

2 - Is it time to talk about structural separation again, forcing companies to choose to be either ASPs or ISPs?



LeonardGrace 12/5/2012 | 3:50:57 PM
re: Weighing the Net Neutrality Debate

Maybe I should be saying (pipelines) instead of ISP's. The fact of the matter is that some Access Service Providers are also Internet Service Providers. They have built pipelines and offer individual connections and applications to both residential and commercial markets.

My point is that these pipelines need to be unfettered as a highway for competition. That is, the owners of the pipeline should sell to ASP and ISP customers on a somewhat equal basis. Otherwise, the dynamics of competition will not work, as in your point about the Independents.

At this juncture we have a privately built network of mostly large companies which are being asked to share their pipelines with compeititors, which is not naturally a good business strategy.  So how do you create competition within a privately owned pipeline for all comers, without having those private companies sell access on their infrastructure, as the phone companies were required to do in 1996?

If the price of applications and internet service is to be affordable for most Americans including residential and businesses, there has to be serious competition within the marketplace, and that just does not seem to be the case. Today, we have a few companies providing most of the broadband access available, ie...Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox, AT&T, and Verizon.

It is not to say that these companies do not welcome competition, but most do not compete against one another, and why would they, if it's not necessary; thus my point. 

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