McCain on net neutrality: No.

He thinks it fine that the telcos and the cable companies “control the pipe.”

I missed this soundbite when it came out a year ago, but Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones picked it up.

McCain uses precisely the telco/cable company talking point:

“When you control the pipe you should be able to get profit from your investment.”

But of course, that’s precisely the question, isn’t it? Should the ISP’s (the local phone companies and the cable companies, all built as regulated monopolies and fighting hard to hang on to their monopoly positions) “control the pipe,” or just provide connectivity to consumers and step back?

There are two competing models here.

* The cable company gets to decide what TV programs you can and can’t watch, just like a broadcast TV station does. That’s the Net as the ISPs want to see it.

* Your phone company sells you a dial tone, and has no control over who calls you, whom you call, or what anybody says. Thats the Net as the NetNeut people want to see it.

The difference is sharp: the political affiliation of my phone provider is of no concern to me. But the political affiliation of my local cable provider dictates what programming I have access to. If ISP’s want to charge by the byte rather than all-you-can-eat, I have no objection. But hands off content!

I’m still chilled by the fact that Clear Channel Communications had the capacity to drive the Dixie Chicks out of the country-music business by banning their music from the airwaves as punishment for not saluting the Beloved Leader. I don’t want to give SBC the same sort of power over the Internet.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: