Why Tech Giants and Telecoms Should Join to Build an Internet for All

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The need for competition and for affordable access to broadband remains. Rather than fight over net neutrality, the large internet companies and telecoms should take a cue from what happened to big financial institutions after the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Seen as the culprits for millions losing homes and retirements savings, banks were subject to draconian regulations, civil suits and hefty fines. If the public perceives that those companies are reaping disproportionate rewards at the public’s expense, it will act swiftly and punitively. Instead of waiting for antitrust suits and the backlash to accelerate, the giants of tech and telecom could preemptively agree on a set of principles and on a commitment to underwrite the costs of open, fast, and affordable access for all. Unless they want to see their social license to operate further compromised, and government regulations and antitrust action stepped up, internet and telecom companies would be wise to stop fighting each other and confront the mounting animus towards all of them. The FCC decision to revoke net neutrality may have tilted the field towards the ISPs, but does nothing to offset that larger challenge. The question is how to maintain that social license and provide for affordable access to high-speed internet. As Tim Wu, Columbia law professor and an early advocate of net neutrality rules, pointed out to me, “isn’t there a better way for the Silicon Valley winners to ensure that everyone has affordable, fast and easy access to the internet than allowing Comcast to charge Netflix for more bandwidth?” A more audacious scenario would be for all sides to agree on a substantial subsidy for broadband rollout and affordability.


Why Tech Giants and Telecoms Should Join to Build an Internet for All