Per The National Journal, both Time Warner Cable and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association lobbying group have filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission warning that major Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Netflix are the real threats to net neutrality because they could threaten to charge ISPs extra money for the rights to let their customers access their websites. We are sadly not joking.
“A relatively concentrated group of large [Web companies] — such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook — have enormous and growing power over consumers’ ability to access the content of their choice on the Internet,” writes the NCTA. “It makes no sense to focus exclusively on Internet access providers and ignore conduct by [websites] that threatens similar harms.”
This sort of complaint might make sense if cable companies actually competed fiercely one another for Internet service customers, but they really just don’t. If Google and Netflix were to threaten to bar Comcast from delivering their traffic, they wouldn’t hurt Comcast since many Comcast customers simply don’t have a choice when it comes to picking an ISP. Instead, they’d merely be depriving themselves of customers without doing anything to harm individual cable companies’ dominance in individual markets.
What’s more, we really need to consider how Internet companies’ business models work before you consider the likelihood that they’d ever do such a thing — they thrive when people access their content. More clicks mean more advertising dollars, which in turn means higher revenues.