Now before anyone disliking regulations criticizes this idea and votes it down -- I'll say I agree in principle that there should never be over regulation but markets can't govern themselves completely -- under regulations are just as bad as over regulating.
Before Bush & Cheney were in the White House we had 30 + years of common sense, pro consumer, pro competitive Internet regulations banning mega mergers between big ISPs, forcing them to share their infrastructure with smaller ISPs, offer cheap Internet access to smaller ISPs at wholesale prices so they can then resell broadband Internet access cheaply to their own customers -- The Ma Bell system was broken up to create more competition in the emerging broadband Internet access market that was still in its infancy. Our nation's leaders realized Internet would become the future of all media one day and wanted it to be open, competitive and vibrant for users. Large Internet companies had to provide equal, fair, and unfettered access to smaller companies -- so NetZero could buy Internet access from AT&T and resell it to their customers cheaply. The U.S. Congress even passed a law the 1996 Telecommunications Act mandating the broadband Internet access market be kept open and competitive, so there can be universal, affordable access to all Americans. They saw Internet as a public utility -- and a public right -- as soon as the bill was passed AT&T complained that it was unfair that they had to provide affordable Internet access to smaller competitors. They lobbied to reverse the regulations -- what they couldn't convince the courts to undo President Bush did for them in office. There even was a National Broadband Plan before Bush entered office but what did the Bush Administration do -- massive deregulation of the Internet and scrapped the National Broadband Plan.
Due to the Bush Administration's bad policies the U.S. fell from 4th in the world in terms of broadband Internet access penetration when George W. Bush entered office in 2001 to 17th by 2005-2006 -- last I checked it is 28th.
What happened was other countries maintained their pro competitive regulatory commitments banning mergers etc and kept broadband Internet access affordable. The Bush Administration though neglected to keep up these common sense regulations and as a nation we fell behind other countries that kept up their regulations.
Last year in Europe as the Obama FCC sought to restore Net Neutrality -- a European Commissioner bragged Net Neutrality is better in Europe -- and the Internet market is more competitive there -- this Commissioner said that in Europe they would not hesitate to enforce Net Neutrality ever -- there is no dire need in Europe today for new Net Neutrality rules like in the U.S. because so much of the Internet market there is already competitive.
If we maintained our regulatory commitments during the Bush years there would not be a huge digital divide in the country today. We could have millions of more jobs (closing the digital divide can result in more job creation) and Internet for everyone rich or poor, or urban or rural. Internet companies would not be able to throttle web traffic. Big ISPs like Time Warner Cable and Comcast would be unable to prioritize and discriminate against web traffic or content. A major problem right now with cable companies is they have a conflict of interest as they also have digital cable TV services -- they might without Net Neutrality try to restrict competition from online video on demand services to their TV services.
What we need to try to do is breakup AT&T again -- spinoff SBC Communications & BellSouth from AT&T, and breakup some big cable companies -- forbid providers of TV or Internet service from owning content -- there should be Net Neutrality making every ISP a dumb pipe taking you to the same Internet and providing equal access to all. We need to restore the regulations the Bush Administration abandoned and enforce the regulations we have.