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This brings up another side to the Net Neutrality debate: While most criticisms of a tiered system so far have centered around the disturbing free speech implications of allowing telecoms to be gatekeepers, there is also the issue of suppressing competitive technologies. This story is a good example of how a non-neutral system could be used to cripple innovative technologies that for one reason or another impinge on the gatekeeper's interest. With the increasing consolidation of corporations it's not at all hard to imagine the telecoms disrupting traffic for all sorts of reasons. Maybe Rupert Murdoch or Disney buy a telecom and decide to use it to sabotage certain file-transfer software because it might be used to transmit their copyrighted material.

This isn't a point you'll hear from those libertarian free-market cultists either, because they always claim to be pro-business even while they're opposing a level playing field. Encouraging innovation is one of those things that a free market is supposed to do, and yet here's an obvious case where a supposedly "free market" approach does the exact opposite.

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 20, 2007 12:20 PM

I feel like this sort of action (from corporations) is borderline legal at best, and would be on the precipice of a showdown in the courts if we weren't bogged down with other silly Bush era rhetoric and law.

Posted by Jaye | October 20, 2007 12:31 PM

Flamingbanjo @1,

The Conservative rejoinder, however, is this: If there's a viable technology that one ISP is rejecting, another ISP in the free marketplace will embrace it. And, if the technology is so great and popular, the ISP that's rejecting it will come out the loser.

Posted by Josh Feit | October 20, 2007 12:32 PM

It's hard for that free marketplace to have an effect when all serious competition is from local monopolies. Yes, clearwire isn't regulated like telco's and cable companies, but they don't have the same speed.

Posted by wisepunk | October 20, 2007 12:54 PM

More on the AP article here.

"It'd be wonderful if the solution was to simply stop subscribing to Comcast. If that would make you feel better, by all means, cancel your subscription.

But know this: Other broadband vendors have not distinguished themselves on the issue of network neutrality. In general, major broadband companies say they should be free to manage traffic on their networks, and it's impossible to tell how expansively they understand that "management" role.

If Comcast is saving money by adopting such methods, you can bet others are already doing so, or soon will. It would be shocking if Comcast were the only one."

Posted by laterite | October 20, 2007 1:09 PM

Josh: I know you're playing devil's advocate here. And the above replies pretty well rejoinder the rejoinder. I would add that the "free market" that conservatives like to say will provide solutions is replete with examples of monopolistic practices and collusion between giant corporations to squelch innovations that threaten their established business models. One need look no further than the energy industry to see this in action.

The fact that monopolies are bad for innovation and bad for consumers is something that Teddy Roosevelt knew a hundred years ago. The fact that it's still considered controversial in some quarters is just proof of how successful those who profit from such practices have been at keeping their discredited arguments in circulation.

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 20, 2007 2:25 PM


Jesus, get with the program!

Posted by Brandon H | October 20, 2007 5:07 PM

any grounds here for a class action against Comcast?

I signed up with Comcast because cable is significantly higher than any DSL available in my neighborhood. And for a couple of years it was great, but for the last four or five months I have basically been unable to upload. I certainly am not getting what I'm paying for, but is there any way to force them to provide it?

Posted by gnossos | October 21, 2007 2:11 PM

A conservative publication, yes. But since when is Larry Tribe a conservative?

Posted by Wa Dem | October 22, 2007 3:31 PM

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