Today, the Internet Freedom Business Alliance was launched. This new group has a bipartisan focus on advocating from an industry perspective for strong, enforceable FCC open Internet rules. Participants come from a diversity of industry sectors that all rely on full and fair Internet access for their economic livelihoods. CCIA is proud to serve on its Advisory Board.
From nationwide real estate firms to e-commerce dealers in handcrafted consumer goods to Silicon Valley start-ups in venture crowdfunding, online education and videogames, homegrown American businesses are joining forces to ensure continued availability of the quality open Internet access we all need to thrive.
Big phone and cable conglomerates claim to support the open Internet. Comcast has even taken out full page ads to proclaim its support for net neutrality. But that’s just because it wants the federal government to approve another of its mega-mergers. Meanwhile, what all of our major Internet access providers perhaps want most is the right to charge our favorite online services and content providers extra tolls for the same local connections we already pay them for via our monthly subscriptions. They also want to monetize their subscriber data, which telecom rules might prevent because subscribers cannot simply “click away” from essential transmission networks.
“The Internet ecosystem is a competitive free market” they say, sweeping under the rug the fact that residential broadband Internet access is a monopoly in many locations, and a duopoly in others. Residents of both places are luckier than those in many rural communities who lack any broadband Internet access at all. The network operators also like to pretend they are just trying to be innovative entrepreneurs, when in truth, they all started out as government protected monopolies with exclusive geographic territories. In the case of the legacy telephone broadband companies like AT&T and Verizon, they are direct successors of the monopoly local Bell phone companies that enjoyed government guaranteed profits for decades. In the case of the cable TV broadband companies, they were granted exclusive local government franchises in the 1980s or earlier, and have faced real competition only in the last decade or so, from the telecom companies.
Many tech companies are so dependent on these underlying network operators that they shy away from public airing of their grievances or demands for fair dealing. But for some smaller online enterprises, and for significant industry sectors like real estate and financial services, nondiscriminatory Internet access and online data delivery are so critical to their business and yet beyond their expertise and control, that they are now speaking out. Stay tuned.