Comcast-NBC Deal Highlights Net Neutrality Issue - InformationWeek

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Commentary
12/3/2009
07:53 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
Commentary
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Comcast-NBC Deal Highlights Net Neutrality Issue

What does it mean when the nation's largest Internet Service Provider, like Comcast, buys one of the biggest content creators in the world, like NBC? For one thing, it means the already contentious issue of Net Neutrality is about to get even more heated. Hopefully, it will galvanize the FCC to create and implement Net Neutrality rules that protect the interests of small and midsize businesses.

What does it mean when the nation's largest Internet Service Provider, like Comcast, buys one of the biggest content creators in the world, like NBC? For one thing, it means the already contentious issue of Net Neutrality is about to get even more heated. Hopefully, it will galvanize the FCC to create and implement Net Neutrality rules that protect the interests of small and midsize businesses.Regular readers may recall that a couple months ago, bMighty's networking blogger and columnist Paul Korzienowski and I got into a semi-heated Point / Counterpoint kerfuffle over the concept.

Paul made the point that Net Neutrality was a government plot to "stifle networking investment and raise costs for small and midsize companies." I countered that Net Neutrality was needed to "help ensure a level playing field and keep huge ISPs and media behemoths from casually crushing innovative small and midsize Internet companies."

At the time, I called out Comcast for its blocking of peer-to-peer traffic, and noted that the giant company wasn't "just an ISP" but also a content provider. Well, if the purchase of NBC goes through, it's going to be a much, much bigger content provider.

Critics and regulators are obviously concerned that Comcast will favor its own content on its cable networks, and perhaps not make that content available to users of other services. Well, those very same concerns become vastly wider, deeper, and more complex once the cable company owns the TV network (and its associated cable networks like USA, SyFy and others). Observers are already pointing out how easy -- and how tempting -- it would be for Comcast to give special treatment to its own content at the expense of competitors.

The needs of small and midsize companies doing business on the Internet are not served by being at the whim of a giant, vertically integrated behemoth that owns both the content and the means of distributing that content.

The FCC has shown interest in creating real Net Neutrality rules. With this deal, the need becomes even stronger and clearer.

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