Democracy & Technology Blog Experts agree that blocking web sites unlikely

Net neutrality advocates argue that network providers have the ability and the incentive to block access by consumers to the web sites of their choice. At a Mar. 14th Senate Commerce Committee hearing featuring several high-placed Wall Street analysts, this question was addressed:

SEN. STEVENS: Let me ask you about this net neutrality problem that two of you have mentioned substantially. Do you think a network operator could block access to a company like Google or Yahoo! and really get away with it?
MR. SZYMCZAK (JPMorgan): I think that would be very difficult to sustain on an ongoing basis because if we think about it in a competitive nature, if the phone company were to block it, a lot of customers would switch within that day or the next day to a cable operator. So it would always offer opportunities to the fellow who is not blocking it to take customers. So I think that pressure will make it very difficult to block access to an important service like that.
SEN. STEVENS: Go head, Mr. Bourkoff.
MR. BOURKOFF (UBS Investment Research): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I agree. I think that blocking access would be a devastating outcome, but I think the middle ground is probably that there has to be a tiering structure put in place where some of the higher capacity content over the Internet that really requires a lot more bandwidth, you know, may have to pay more for packet prioritization for some of that content, otherwise there is a risk that the cap ex cycle will continue to increase and that there may be a sort of an un-equitable distribution of that capacity. So there should be equal access, in my view, of video content across the spectrum, but maybe at a defined capacity level. If it gets above or below that, there may be a tiering structure which could help differentiate that.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.