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UW Expert Likens Net Neutrality Moves to Scene from 'Godfather II'

GRAPHIC: A nationally recognized University of Wisconsin telecommunications expert says the nation's giant telecom companies are making big moves, confident that Net Neutrality will be changed by the Federal Communications Commission, and the battle is playing out in Wisconsin. Graphic courtesy UW Extension.
GRAPHIC: A nationally recognized University of Wisconsin telecommunications expert says the nation's giant telecom companies are making big moves, confident that Net Neutrality will be changed by the Federal Communications Commission, and the battle is playing out in Wisconsin. Graphic courtesy UW Extension.
May 7, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - The biggest cable companies in the nation - Comcast, Charter, and Time Warner - are gambling heavily that the Federal Communications Commission will change Net Neutrality, the concept that everyone should have equal access to the Internet.

University of Wisconsin Professor Barry Orton, a nationally recognized telecommunications expert, said the cable giants are acting like the gangsters in "Godfather II" as they divide up the spoils.

"They're, 'OK, the Cleveland boys get the Flamingo, and the Corleone family gets the Tropicale,' et cetera, et cetera, and they're cutting up this cake. This is the same thing with the cable markets. Comcast, Charter, and Time-Warner are redistributing the country."

Orton said cable and telecommunications companies have spent a fortune on lobbyists trying to change Net Neutrality, are confident changes are coming and already are making moves to position themselves for the change.

Orton said that's why we're seeing so many changes in cable providers in cities all across the nation. He said Comcast is making huge deals.

"They're swapping some systems in the south and in L.A. and other areas to Charter, and Charter is then picking up the rest of the Time-Warner systems in Wisconsin; the Green Bay-Fox Valley market and the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha market," he said. "What that will mean is Charter will then have almost the entire state of Wisconsin."

Orton said another very direct impact will result from all the swaps and affect a lot of jobs in Wisconsin.

"Time-Warner has two chunks of employees - one in Milwaukee and one in Appleton - with hundreds of customer service representatives, phone answerers, those kinds of people," he said. "Charter has a big one in Fond du Lac, and so the question is going to be how those jobs get consolidated, and where."

Advocates for Net Neutrality say these kinds of changes will result in an Internet that is less free, with huge advantages being given to big Internet users such as Google, Netflix and Amazon.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI