The real threat to online freedom is from Internet giants like Google and Netflix, according to major cable companies.
Those sites could block access to popular content and extort tolls out of Internet service providers, the cable companies warn.
The argument is the backward version of the usual fight over net neutrality.
There is intense public pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to enact net-neutrality regulations that prevent broadband providers from blocking websites or manipulating Internet traffic. Consumer advocacy groups and the major Internet companies warn that because broadband providers like Comcast control their customers' access to the entire Internet, they have tremendous power to distort the Internet for their own purposes.
But in a filing to the FCC, Time Warner Cable claimed that the controversy over Internet providers potentially charging websites for access to special "fast lanes" is a "red herring." The real danger, the cable company claimed, is that Google or Netflix could demand payments from Internet providers. Customers expect access to the most popular websites, and an Internet provider may have little choice but to pay up.
The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, which represents all the major cable companies, wrote that "a relatively concentrated group of large [Web companies]—such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook—have enormous and growing power over consumers' ability to access the content of their choice on the Internet."