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Brand X Will Remain Just That, And Likely Not Become A Household Name

There's been a lot of noise on the internet and blogs about Grokster and the two Ten Commandments cases, but have you been listening to the wires?


Yes. In the wake of these three major rulings from the Supreme Court yesterday, there was another major opinion that ultimately may have more of an impact on the internet than Grokster: National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. v. Brand X Internet Services.

In this latter case, the Court considered whether cable companies would be required to open up their lines to Internet Service Providers like Brand X and Earthlink. The Court said, "No," giving cable companies a benefit unlike the telephone companies, which are required to allow other telephone carriers access to their telephone lines.

Remember MCI? That's how they get started. Earthlink and Brand X wanted the same leg up from the cable companies.

Now, however, internet companies can't tap into cable lines, thanks to this Supreme Court decision. The effect on cable companies is certain: profit is secure and won't have to be shared. Consumers, on the other hand, may not get such a benefit according to consumer groups.

"The decision to abandon nondiscrimination was a grave error, both harming consumers and stifling entrepreneurial innovation," the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America said in a joint statement. "Allowing cable operators to act as gatekeepers on the flow of information has slowed technological progress and adoption of high-speed Internet service."

Think about it. In 1983, Justice broke up AT&T. We all thought it was a great deal. Lower prices, more competition, and heck, we thought we finally might even get videophones.

Now we know better. The government's experiment in playing with business has come full circle. One of the smaller Baby Bells from the breakup recently bought AT&T, and now we're back to the mega-monopoly. Phone service is slowly returning to the quality that it had a long time ago.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court has learned that lesson, and broadband service will remain in the hands of companies motivated to improve service and spread it across the country. Internet service is secure, and your broadband will remain broad, not narrowed down to a trickle by ISPs grabbing bandwidth.

Will broadband service cost a little more as a consequence? Perhaps. After all, you get what you pay for.

Here's another way to think about it: after the government broke up the Bell System, how good was your telephone service?


Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, June 29, 2005

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