Comcast, Verizon, and reasons for solving the Net Neutrality question

If you think “net neutrality” is a boring topic, or that the FCC should not address it, there were a couple of Comcast items of note this week that underscore just how much this topic is misunderstood. Perhaps we should start calling them Comcast/NBC/Universal, because that might be more accurate. They are far more than just a cable company, they own a significant piece of content too.

In any event, two items:

1. Comcast-owned NBC buys part of Vox Media and its stable of news sites

Which discusses Comcast buying up news websites.

The official announcement comes after reports last month that Comcast was in negotiations with both Vox Media and BuzzFeed. Later this week, NBCUniversal will announce a $200 million investment in BuzzFeed, Re/code reported today.

Comcast rival Verizon has also gotten into the news business with a recent purchase of AOL, which owns the The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, and others.

2. Comcast is about to launch a major video platform called Watchable to rival Facebook and Google

Which discusses Comcast building it’s own web video service.

Comcast is partnering with major digital publishers like Comcast-backed Vox and Buzzfeed, lifestyle, and comedy sites like AwesomenessTV, Refinery29, and The Onion, news sites like Mic and Vice, as well as legacy brands like NBC Sports to come up with a widespread digital-video platform that will rival YouTube and Facebook’s online video efforts.

It will also rival the rumored video platform Verizon is preparing to unveil.

In a world where Comcast as an ISP (or Verizon or AT&T) or the only viable choice of ISP for many people, the developing vision of these companies controlling the pipe and all layers of the OSI model is the root cause for concern around the entire “net neutrality” debate. If the big ISP’s want to be in the content marketplace, fine, but control of, and robust competition in, the last mile network is something we need to look at.

What are the solutions? So far I’ve seen proposals ranging from having the last mile portions divested to finding a means to return to far more competition such as line sharing. But doing nothing is leading us to a messy situation. We need far more competition, especially at local levels, and sooner rather than later. Absent that, the last mile pipe will end up being treated as a utility, which isn’t ideal, but will be what local communities start demanding.