The Net Neutrality debate, hot as it is, would not exist if the old telco monopolies were behaving like ordinary companies who had to compete for customers. Most of their attitude can be traced back to when they were national monopolies who didn’t have to compete, and the fact that in several areas of the United States and elsewhere, they still don’t have competition.
The American AT&T was broken up in 1982, a few years ahead of the deregulation of the European telecoms markets, where governmental monopolies had up-until-then provided telephone service. The typical result of this was that the national monopoly companies started competing with each other in countries previously monopolized, without a lot of new competitors arriving on the scene. It’s interesting to note, that those national monopoly telcos tend to operate with the we-don’t-need-customers attitude of a monopoly in its own country, but with the attitude of a customer-oriented startup in the countries where it tried to establish a foothold, competing against a previous national monopoly.
So Telenor (Norway) would be very competitive and customer-focused in Sweden, with Telia (Sweden) being the horrible old dinosaur pretending it runs the world there. Conversely, Telia would be super-competitive in Norway, trying to make an inroad against the previous monopoly Telenor. It goes on with Telefónica (Spain), TDC (Denmark), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), and so on.
This matters, because around the turn of the century, there were tons and tons and tons of small Internet Service Providers. The bar to starting an ISP was really low, so many did. But one by one, they were acquired by these monopolistic giants, surely to the sound of cash rings on behalf of the founders, but to the detriment of Internet rollout culture.
When I was designing standards in the WAP Forum, also around