t's easy to frame the debate over net neutrality as an ideological battle between forces who want unfettered Internet access and those who would prevent it. Actually, like most good fights, it's largely a dispute over money. Some pretty basic numbers illustrate the point — and provide an idea of where the debate should logically wind up.
There are two broad constituencies facing off in this quarrel. On the one side are providers of Web access. Call them the Pipes. They include telecoms giants AT&T and Verizon, who have a combined 142 million wireless customers and provide fiber and DSL connections to more homes than anyone else. Alongside them are the cable operators, led by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, who together reach into 30 million American homes.
In the other corner are those firms that benefit most from surging traffic on the Internet — call them the Swipes. In this camp are Apple, Google, Cisco and Microsoft. Their businesses — whether selling search advertising, routers to channel data or snazzy mobile devices — demand ever-larger amounts of bandwidth to grow.