Lots of talk on net neutrality this week, mostly due to the joint policy proposal from Google and Verzion. While many Americans are calling for government-imposed net neutrality rules, The New York Times’ Eric Pfanner proposes a different solution – one that has been working wonders in Europe. And hey, what a coincidence – I’m European!
When it comes to ensuring that your internet service provider does not throttle or limit certain types of internet traffic, you could of course ask some government institution to take care of it. However, as I’ve hinted at before, the FCC might not be the ideal candidate for that – considering it has outdated and ridiculous decency rules, and has no qualms about enforcing those. On top of that – how much influence do voters really have on things like this?
There is another solution, as Eric Pfanner points out. He looks across the Atlantic to us Europeans, and he’s right, we have it pretty good here. “Across much of Europe, consumers can choose among dozens of broadband providers, offering faster and less expensive Internet access than is available to most Americans. The situation is similar in Australia and in some advanced broadband markets in Asia, like Hong Kong and Singapore,” Pfanner writes, “Consumers who are unhappy with their broadband providers – if, for example, they suspect that their Internet use is not getting priority treatment – can simply switch.”
Obviously, I can only speak for The Netherlands, but that’s indeed the case here. I can choose between multiple broadband providers over either phone lines or cable, and switching between them is relatively easy. The end result is that many European countries enjoy lower broadband pricing and faster speeds.
“In the United States, by contrast, many consumers can choose between only two broadband providers – one offering service over the phone lines, the other via cable. Others have no choice at all,” Pfanner continues, “U.S. regulators, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, have not generally required broadband providers to open their networks to competitors.”
Could this be a more effective and less complicated solution to this problem? Have there ever been talks in the US about forcing openness on the infrastructure-level instead of the ISP level? Forcing US providers to open up their networks would increase competition, leading to lower prices – similar to what happened here in Europe.
This seems to fit better into the American ideal of “laissez-faire business principles”, as Pfanner puts it.