Comcast Corporation, America's biggest Internet service provider, is also the country's largest cable company, and — with its ownership of NBC Universal — the world's largest media company [source: Cassidy]. If regulators allow Comcast to merge with Time Warner — the second largest ISP and cable company in America — the combined mega-corporation would provide high-speed Internet access to 40 percent of American homes [source: NY Times Editorial Board].
There is genuine concern that a handful of powerful ISPs have become the gatekeepers of the Internet, picking winners and losers according to the size of their checks. For a Web company to get its content to consumers, it has no choice but to go through an ISP [source: McMillan]. And considering that Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner enjoy de facto monopolies in many large cable markets across America, Web companies must bow to the local king.
Even Tim Wu, who coined the phrase net neutrality, argues that the real issue isn't fast lanes, but rather increasing competition among ISPs [source: McMillan]. One way to do that would be to follow the example of the United Kingdom, where regulators require ISPs and cable companies to lease their fiber optic lines to competitors at cost [source: Cassidy]. Without that rule, it would be far too expensive for an upstart ISP to enter the market, which is exactly the reality in the U.S. today.