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Net neutrality debate re-ignites

VisiCalc co-author Bob Frankston insists a new Bell break-up is the only way out. "As long as the service providers control the transport there cannot be a marketplace," he concludes. I agree with him

Bob Frankson
The recent blocking of BitTorrent by Comcast has re-ignited the network neutrality debate.

Rep. Rick Boucher has called Comcast on the carpet, but AT&T has responded forcefully. They not only deny the need for network neutrality, they call it a positive harm, adding there is no such thing as a cable-phone duopoly.

One interesting point here is that rural areas, which formerly were grossly under-served by the old Bell System, are now leading the drive to restore competition. In "Southside" Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative now delivers 80 Mbps link-ups to area schools, allowing for high-quality videoconferencing. They also support Wireless ISPs which wish to compete with the telcos.

MuniWireless says the municipal wireless market grew 35% this year, despite well-publicized setbacks in major cities. "Networks that are up and running are delivering real, tangible value to their communities, and decision-makers are generally quite satisfied," said founder Esme Vos.

Those areas which suffered for decades under the Bell monopoly are now freeing themselves, while those markets which formerly had competition are now coming under the control of a duopoly dedicated to throttling-down service and squeezing ever-higher profits from captive consumers.

UPDATE: The arrogance of phone executives regarding wireless, which they see as a model for their future corporate Internet, is also helping fuel the debate, concentrating the minds of tech executives on what is at stake here. The fight over retroactive immunity for phone company wiretaps (which you can join) is also playing into growing public clamor.

VisiCalc co-author Bob Frankston (above) insists a new Bell break-up is the only way out. "As long as the service providers control the transport there cannot be a marketplace," he concludes.

I agree with him.