The un-neutral net

The FCC issued its net neutrality regulations in 2010 to ensure that last-mile broadband providers could not block subscribers’ access to to any legal content. So what does it mean when a content providers decide to block those same subscribers’ access to its own content, as CBS currently is doing to Time Warner Cable broadband subscribers amidst their retransmission dispute.
If the goal of the net neutrality rules was to make sure consumers did not become victims of monopoly behavior it means the rules aren’t working. Broadband users are supposed to be able to access any legal online content — a category that includes CBS content — but that’s not currently the case for TWC broadband users. They could switch providers, of course, or move, of if they happen to be in New York subscribe to Aereo. But why should that be the consumer’s burden? Why isn’t net neutrality a two-way street?
I’m being only half facetious.  As we learned in 2010 in the dispute between Level 3 and Comcast, and again in June in the dispute between Cogent and Verizon, the FCC’s net neutrality rules do nothing to protect consumers in the case of peering disputes among network operators and they’re doing nothing for Time Warner Cable subscribers now.
At the same time, the FCC’s retransmission consent rules have handed enormous leverage to content owners in their dealings with service providers, which has contributed to repeated harm being inflicted on hapless pay-TV consumers in the form of blackouts. CBS has now extended that harm to broadband consumers as well.
If the mission of the FCC is to protect consumers — as it is — it’s not doing a very good job of it. Even if the net neutrality rules survive the current court challenge it might be time to rethink the whole thing.