Another blow to the "competition" argument is the fact that the ISPs have no real reason to provide any advantages over their "competition" where there is an actual choice in provider. If you only have two players in a market, both can abuse their customers to the point where those customers leave for the competitor, knowing that because the service and pricing aren't substantially different on the other side of the fence, those users will be just as disillusioned with their new provider. Perhaps those switchers will even be disgusted enough to switch again, or at least the number of users flowing between the two "choices" will be about even.
Of course, Verizon and others complain bitterly about how costly it was to build their networks and how they can't be asked to provide suitable bandwidth because they're losing their shirts on infrastructure costs. Naturally, they don't talk much about the billions in funds that the U.S. taxpayers gave them to build those very same networks.
The biggest error in technology and communication in recent memory is the failure of the U.S. government to classify Internet service providers as common carriers. Without that distinction, all manner of corporate malfeasance is possible because there are no regulations in place to ensure that monopolistic practices are curtailed, or that what should clearly be open and unfettered communication channels are indeed kept free from censorship and collusion.
It's not just in the United States -- Netflix considers Canada to have "third-world" Internet service, to the point it's "almost a human rights violation." This is a direct result of the same lack of oversight coupled with predatory actions by a handful of companies. These companies have maneuvered themselves into an enviable position from a shareholder point of view, but a terrible position for their customers. Very few other industries can outright extort their own customers with little to no fear of losing market share. This is the whole point of preventing monopolies.
Everyone's Internet access hangs in the balance
If Verizon wins, the citizens lose, no matter who they are bound to for Internet access. With the Internet playing such a key role in our daily lives, this is not just a matter of the loss or cost of entertainment. A decision for Verizon would mean a hugely significant reduction in the flow of information, of communication, of what should be codified as a constitutional right.
Whether Verizon wins or loses, my hope is that we will begin to see clear and unconstrained Internet access as a public service, a constitutional right, a given -- that we will someday be able to enjoy the pricing, speed, and availability of Internet access enjoyed by Romania or South Korea. It's obvious that we cannot count on the big ISPs to bring us there without placing strong controls on their behavior. It bothers me to no small degree that so much time and energy is being spent fighting this ridiculous battle when we could be using those resources to actually move the conversation forward. It's like most of us are trying to talk about improving self-driving cars while a group of morons are interjecting with a debate about how stagecoaches are really the way to go.
The difference is that if Verizon wins, it will take us much longer to get there because the wheels will eventually come off the bus as customers inevitably revolt. If Verizon loses, U.S. broadband may be freed of its shackles sooner because a tide of common sense may appear and Verizon's absurd behavior will be abolished by law.
Call me an optimist, but I believe it will happen. It's just a matter of how long and how painful it will be.
This story, "What if Verizon succeeds in killing the Internet?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.