This is a nice rosy view of things, but it's just not accurate. They're de facto infrastructure builders, and for their efforts they want a monopoly on that infrastructure, with all the powers it comes with (e.g. favoring some traffic over others). The problem is that everybody long ago realized that infrastructure monopolies are a bad idea because they destroy both competition and infrastructure growth. It's why major roads aren't owned by private companies, it's why the electric company can't charge you more if they don't like the brand of your TV, and it's why public transportation services like trains and buses can't charge you more if you're partners.
Letting private businesses compete in various niche ways is fine as long as they are (1) actually private and (2) actually in a working free market. Telecoms in the U.S. are neither. They're so heavily subsidized and regulated that they function more as pseudo-government entities who should be entrusted with very serious business of maintaining public infrastructure. But they should definitely be prevented from rampantly discriminating against their customers to profit. The whole point of infrastructure is that it is a common public good, available to everyone equally without discrimination.
In the US, many major roads are owned by private companies like Cintra  to give one example, and they charge tolls  on those roads.
It's become common practice in many US states that any new highway construction must have a toll on it and then the state sells the road to a private company.
Should we allow Cintra to let you go 100MPH instead of 70MPH if you pay a higher toll on the Indiana Toll Road? Maybe every 10MPH is an additional $1. Or maybe Cintra knows that Tesla drivers are rich, so their tolls could be set 10x higher than a Kia's toll. Or maybe people with Illinois license plates are on average more wealthy than people with Ohio plates, so they can pay more too...
I think it's unfortunately down to the incessant anti-tax rhetoric in the US. It's a lot easier to get a private company to finance a toll-road with a concession agreement than it is to pass bond measures or increase taxes.
Seriously, though, why are real estate prices higher in areas with better schools? It's not because every person who lives there or might live there has kids, it's because better public infrastructure creates better quality of life for everyone. Good public schools might not impact you directly if you don't have children, but they do attract better neighbors, create more cultural and social opportunities (even for the childless), and generally produce better quality of life for the communities they serve.
I really, really wish all the libertarians would get off HN and move to Somalia or some other place with no functioning government where they could finally be happy. I'm sure it would work out well for them, because good governance clearly has no positive externalities.
That's harsh. Most libertarians aren't anarchists...
Except we do pay them. I live in a fairly well off area in middle Georgia (by non-metro Atlanta standards at least). But we have a couple neighboring counties that, left to their own devices, wouldn't be able to afford much in the way of a fire department (median income drops by $10-20k, populations also lower so they can't make up the taxes in aggregate). Our state taxes get partially redistributed to permit those poorer counties/cities to have an essential service. (Note: I know that the state spends on fire, my brief search did not reveal a county-by-county breakdown)
"About 70 percent of the construction and maintenance costs of Interstate Highways in the United States have been paid through user fees, primarily the fuel taxes collected by the federal, state, and local governments."
And about 1/7 of the fuel tax revenue is redirected to public transit, rather than highways.
A moderate increase in the fuel tax could make the IHS completely self-sustaining for both capital and maintenance expenditures. Unfortunately, raising the gas tax is typically a political loser.
Local roads are predominantly paid for through local property and other taxes, but that's easier to justify, since everyone takes advantage of local roads even if they don't drive.
 At least until electric cars become commonplace, in which case I'd probably be in favor of a simple mileage tax which could achieve the same effect.
The real problem here is that many advocates of net neutrality frame their support of neutrality strictly in terms of enabling free-market innovation. Perhaps because they're afraid to lose the support of the many libertarians who still walk among us, net neutrality supporters are afraid to give a fully fleshed-out narrative of what should happen: the government either makes a massive direct investment in increasing information bandwidth (as it has done with transportation bandwidth), or it assimilates the telcos and makes them do so. Finally, the current wave of market-based innovation can continue, supported (as markets always are) by a robust public infrastructure. There is a properly dialectical relationship here: you can't have one of these moments without the other, even though they are contradictory.
Is this plan perfect? No, but it sounds a million times more preferable than Comcast and Verizon picking which startups live or die.
I can't help thinking that if, 20 years ago, Microsoft had struck a deal with the major ISPs to prioritise packets being downloaded to Internet Explorer over those being downloaded to Netscape browsers, Marc would have had a very different take on net neutraliy.
I consider Andreesson to have zero credibility in this matter, for reasons stated above and more. Why not allow rich and powerful corporations to control access to US consumers? Our smartest consumer startups, denied US consumers, will start to build Twitter and Pinterest and other services for consumers outside of AT&T and Verizon's control, and we will be more and more irrelevant as a market and a technology innovator.
The state of broadband and wireless in the U.S. is proof only of the fact that it's much more expensive to build infrastructure to a huge, sparely-populated country with large suburban, exurban, and rural populations. Half of South Korea lives in the metro area of the largest city. About 30% of people in England live in the metro area of London. About 25% of people in Finland live in the metro area of Helsinki. Only 4% of the people in the USA live in the metro area of New York City. Beyond that, more than half the population of metro London lives in the city proper. For a typical U.S. city like Boston or DC or Atlanta, its more like 15%.
Interesting point. However, imagine if regulators had dictated the web browser as a "common carrier" and defined exactly what it can and can't do, we might never have had all of the new tech that makes the modern web so much better than the IE5 days.
The idea that we won't get enough bandwidth in the future unless the telecos et. el. are allowed to play gatekeeper makes no sense to me.
That's not to say that net neutrality is bad or wrong on balance, but no cons at all?
See the flaw?
Do you actually want to deal with a biased pipe?
I'm not being snarky here, I'd really like to think a new thought.
(To be fair, or just contrary, I kinda feel that all the porn and ads might due with a little reduced service, but I'm not megalomaniacal enough to think that I should get to decide for everyone else..)
This is a highly idealized view, which does not mesh well with synonymous real world systems like cable TV and cell phone networks. Those two examples alone prove to me that these companies would prefer to collude to keep prices artificially high than to use their monopolistic infrastructures to provide cheap and high quality service to consumers.
Besides which, America has already paid $200 billion to these companies in the name of infrastructure improvement, and all they did with that was take the money and run.
I don't know whether Comcast is using IP to deliver their video-on-demand services to your cable box, but let's assume they are. That IP bandwidth is above and beyond whatever you're paying for as a "broadband" connection, but that's just accounting: It's all packets in the end. Is it "neutral" for Comcast to be able to use that bandwidth to provide you with movies and TV while restricting NetFlix to your capped/metered "Internet" bandwidth?
If NN would disallow such restrictions, then Comcast really is a low margin dumb pipe provider. Some people love that idea, but it doesn't encourage any of the existing broadband providers (maybe sans Google) to keep spending tens of billions of dollars to roll out faster and faster networks.
If NN doesn't apply to these services, then of course Comcast will simply package up as much of their IP-based applications and content as possible into proprietary interfaces with your TV and other devices while making the bandwidth available to "open" IP applications commensurately smaller.
If you want to know what the world looks like without network neutrality just go back to the days of Compuserve, Prodigy, Genie, AOL, et al. Dismal does't even begin to describe the situation.
"If you want to know...." - no, just looking for an actual stated technical definition of net neutrality without the hand waving from these articles
Bit Torrent already does this with Message Stream Encryption/Protocol Encryption, and it can potentially hide on port 80/443. But why stop at just Bit Torrent traffic? Why not build a new web out of something more akin to this?
Surely people have not forgotten what it was like pre-neutrality (Compuserve, Prodigy, Genie, AOL, et al)?