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JEREMY HOBSON: House Republicans have tacked on an amendment to the federal spending bill. It would stop the Federal Communications Commission from enacting new rules that govern the cost of using the Internet.
Marketplace’s Eve Troeh joins us now to explain. Hi Eve.
EVE TROEH: Hi Jeremy.
HOBSON: Net neutrality. Tell us what this is all about.
TROEH: Well, net neutrality — it’s one of the most complicated issues out there. People still don’t really know what it means, but I’m going to give it a shot on this little slice of it. Last year government regulators said we want to watch internet companies, to make sure they don’t favor their own content — like, say you’re a Comcast customer. Comcast should charge you more to watch other people’s videos, rather than Comcast produced videos. So the government would need people and equipment to do that monitoring. The House amendment would block any money for them to do it.
HOBSON: And what are these House members that are against this saying? What is their objection?
TROEH: For one, they say net neutrality would stifle innovation. If companies can’t set their own prices, then they lose incentive to make their service better. I talked to Carl Howe at the Yankee Group. He says what’s really at stake is the right to produce and consume content — videos, web pages, whatever — versus the rights of Internet service providers to make money. And he says the House amendment takes a very free market stance on that.
CARL HOWE: Those that own the networks get to set the rules. In many ways the network owners become the owners of the tollbooth, if net neutrality is not required, and as such they can charge whatever tolls they want.
So net neutrality — and there’s that phrase again — net neutrality rules argue no no no. All the content has to have the same opportunity to reach the customer. But without money to enforce that idea, it can’t happen.
HOBSON: All right, we’ll be watching what happens in Washington in the net neutrality debate. Marketplace’s Eve Troeh, thanks so much.
TROEH: Sure thing.
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