Net Neutrality: The Market for Messaging

We are bombarded with messaging. Political messaging. Commercial messaging. All designed to get us to illicit a certain response, namely to buy a product or support a package. Net neutrality is no different. Large internet portals like Google and Facebook need to ward off a weak but present challenge to their advertisement empires. Broadband operators like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, given their own mines of data, want to acquire the appropriate advertisement platforms to leverage their consumer data into additional profit for their investors. By proposing net neutrality as public policy, Google and Facebook want to dampen this threat.

And how would net neutrality prevent AT&T, Charter, Cox, Comcast, and Verizon from using their consumer data to create commercial messaging? By using arcane rules based on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Reclassifying broadband access providers as telecommunications carriers would mean that customer information obtained in the delivery of broadband services could only be used in the delivery of other broadband services.

Also, Title II would permit broadband providers to use aggregate consumer information but only on the condition that aggregated data be made available to other telecommunications carriers or to other “persons” on reasonable or nondiscriminatory basis. I can see Google and Facebook saving a few hundred million dollars in search costs by making the Citizens United argument that they are persons, too.

Broadband providers would, under Title II, have a much harder time using customer information to create advertisement geared toward their subscribers, an advantage that internet portal companies such as Google and Facebook have.

In exchange for providing search capabilities that you could find in any good map, Rolodex, or phone book, Google and Facebook receive consumer information that they in turn use to create and target advertisements. As internet portal companies or search engines, they would not have to follow the strict consumer protection derived from Title II of the Communications Act that was designed for common carriers.

You have to wonder if, in addition to expense, Google decided that creating a broadband network was too risky because of the threat of being dragged into the regulatory badlands of net neutrality.

I think the messaging is simple: use public policy to create a barrier for broadband companies, keeping them out of the content delivery and advertising markets for as long as possible. While I don’t see Verizon or AT&T challenging Google or Facebook for dominance of the advertising markets, I guess Google and Facebook choose not to take any chances protecting their moats.


About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
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