Comcast, Marxism, and Net neutrality: Twisted words, shameless hypocrisy

A conservative lobbying group and Comcast turn up the rhetoric in the already heated Net neutrality wars

In the final weeks for filing comments to the FCC on Net neutrality, the gloves have come off and the world's turned upside down. Witness: One conservative lobbying group blasting the concept as "Marxist" and Comcast -- of all companies -- proclaiming itself the open Internet's best friend.

American Commitment, a conservative group with ties to the Koch brothers, has mounted a fearmongering email campaign aimed at killing Net neutrality. American Commitment president Phil Kerpen warns in the emails that the FCC has "drafted crushing new regulations that are the first steps in a full federal takeover of the greatest bastion of American enterprise: the Internet."

Meanwhile Comcast, in a sponsored message in Playbook emails this week, asserts that it is "the only Internet Service Provider to agree to be legally bound by full Net neutrality rules." Never mind that Comcast was required by regulators to make that agreement as a condition of its acquisition of NBC Universal -- a requirement that disappears in 2018. And never mind the millions it's spent trying to kill Net neutrality.

Comcast's eye is on a bigger prize: winning approval for its still-pending Time-Warner merger. Not so coincidentally, decreased competition in the ISP market is a huge threat to Net neutrality. If the FCC approves the Comcast-Time Warner deal, the L.A. Times writes, "Comcast will have less incentive than ever to bring its customers the fastest Internet connection at the most reasonable price. If the FCC approves Wheeler's Net neutrality proposal [for Internet fast lanes], Comcast will have more leeway than ever to squeeze content providers, and consequently the public, for more money for barely adequate service."

Buckets of print ink have been spilled over the issue of Net neutrality. More than a million people from across the country have submitted comments to the FCC. (Curious if your neighbors are among them? Check here.) So much has been written about Net neutrality, or the open Internet, that it's easy to lose sight of the fact that it's a very simple concept: ISPs will treat all data on the Internet equally and not discriminate against content providers by blocking websites, deliberately slowing traffic -- or conversely, speeding select traffic.

But in American Community's universe, Net neutrality represents an "FCC assault on Internet freedom [that] is one of the biggest attacks on our free-market economy, and our freedom, today." Hilariously, the group is a defender of ALEC, the legislative group that has destroyed telecom competition in the states that have passed its legislation.

For a look at American Commitment's email in its entirety, head over to Motherboard and read how, in its opinion, "new regulations" will 1) make it nearly impossible for Internet providers to upgrade their infrastructure; 2) virtually eliminate all competition; 3) cause the Internet's incredible capacity for innovation to disappear; and 4) let Washington bureaucrats use their new powers to control Internet access and censor content.

Regarding that last item, American Community might be better served lobbying against "Son of SOPA" legislation that keeps cropping up in Congress, as well as federal district court judges who grant broad injunctions, effectively wiping out websites without their ever being given a hearing in court.

As for government causing the Internet's capacity for innovation to disappear, BloombergBusinessweek explains in-depth why it's not called the Comcasternet:

The copper in [Comcast's] network was built through monopoly franchise agreements that it secured, county by county, during cable build-outs 20 and 30 years ago. So the coaxial cable that brings the Web -- sorry, "Xfinity"-- to its customers was financed after securing exclusive easements from local governments. This is true for all cable providers. The genesis for Comcast's "private" Internet was a public/private collaboration.

It's true Comcast has invested in network upgrades -- and reaped handsome rewards for that investment. But as BloombergBusinessweek writes, "Having made those investments ... Comcast has now decided that its new-ish network is no longer the Web. It is Xfinity and it is private. If Comcast wants to run Xfinity video over Xfinity faster than everything that is not Xfinity, that's just tough luck for the rest of the 'public' Internet. Or -- as the rest of us should continue to call it -- the Internet."

InfoWorld's Paul Venezia wrote recently, "If we let the big ISPs go without strong open Internet regulations, we will be further subsidizing their business, limiting competition and innovation across all sectors, and reducing our ability to compete with the rest of the world. Europe has strong Net neutrality regulations for good reason, and we are foolish not to follow."

You have until Sept. 15 to make your opinions on this topic known to the FCC.

This story, "Comcast, Marxism, and Net neutrality: Twisted words, shameless hypocrisy," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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