Google has strong words for legislators who are currently mulling over net neutrality issues: the company will take any perceived abuse to the US Department of Justice. Speaking at a news conference in Bulgaria, Internet pioneer and now Google VP Vint Cerf said that the company will be "happy" if legislators ultimately opt to support net neutrality principles, but in the absence of such support, the company will take a wait-and-see approach.
"If we are not successful in our arguments… then we will simply have to wait until something bad happens and then we will make known our case to the Department of Justice’s anti-trust division," he said.
Cerf’s comments recognize one of the most heated debates within the net neutrality fight: whether or not this could become an antitrust issue. Some opponents of net neutrality argue that legislation is not needed because the market will sort it out—a notion founded on the belief that there is more than adequate competition in broadband across the country to prevent monopolistic behavior. Net neutrality advocates often argue the opposite, namely that there is not sufficient competition throughout the country to prevent monopolistic abuses. Without such competition, service providers could punish their competition with impunity, advocates say. "We are worried that some of the broadband service providers will interfere with that principle and will attempt to use their control over broadband transport facilities to interfere with services of competitors," Cerf said.
Recently Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced that he will place a "hold" on any legislation addressing the telecommunications industry that lacks "effective policy" on net neutrality. "The days of unfettered, unlimited and free access to any site on the world wide web, what I call net neutrality, are being threatened," said Sen. Wyden. "Those who own the pipes, the giant cable and phone companies, want to discriminate on which sites you can access."
The war between the two opposing sides is filled with accusations and light on actual facts. Net neutrality opponents have said time and time again that premature action could lead to the stifling of innovation. Telecom lobbyist Mike McCurry recently warned that net neutrality laws "will dampen investor interest in building bigger, faster, smarter pipes," which he argues will ultimately lead to an Internet slowdown. Nevertheless, advocates of net neutrality continue to charge the telecommunications industry with ulterior motives, a charge which they believe "sticks" on account of now infamous comments made by several telecommunications executives over recent years, including AT&T CEO Ed Whiteacre’s claim that Internet companies were using "[his] pipes" for free, and that they should not be "allowed" to do that.