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We may soon be entering an age of digital discrimination, where all websites are not created equal. The government is supporting a law to allow Internet Service Providers like Comcast to charge websites and companies fees to ensure their content is distributed with guaranteed speed to consumers.
Some of today’s most powerful companies were built on the shoulders of the Internet. The US Government seems poised to section off the web into a VIP piggy back riding zone
Regardless of where you place “The Internet” on the list of greatest technological developments of the past century, it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t had the most profound global impact in the shortest period of time. Some of today’s most powerful companies – Google, Facebook, and Twitter – were built on the shoulders of the Internet. Hopeful entrepreneurs and innovators of the future may not have this same luxury: the US Government seems poised to section off the web into a VIP piggy back riding zone.
When you buy internet service from the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable you’re essentially paying for access to bandwidth. Up until now, for the most part, all bandwidth is created equal. Whether you’re reading e-mail, watching videos on Youtube, browsing Facebook, or checking up on the latest Android News on Phandroid, you could expect the same consistent speed and levels of service.
That could change. And if it does, it could be a devastating blow to this open and awesome thing we call the Internet.
The United States Government, by way of the FCC, has announced that it supports “fast lanes” for the Internet where companies are able to pay service providers for more and faster bandwidth to consumers. For example, Netflix could work out a deal with Comcast to ensure their content is streamed quick enough to give users a good movie-watching experience.
This helps absolutely nobody- except for the Internet service providers.
This hurts innovators trying to make “the next big thing” who can’t be sure their service is being delivered quickly relative to huge corporate competitors. This hurts huge corporate competitors who can be price gauged by Internet Service Providers if they want to ensure the best possible experience for customers. And this hurts consumers who – when they go online – could get an uneven and unfair experience depending on which site or companies they patronize.
This is bad.
In some regards you can sympathize with with the Internet Service Providers who have to deliver exponentially more bandwidth than in years past. Ten years ago, nobody was streaming HD content to their TV through their Internet on a daily basis, yet these companies are shouldering the increased bandwidth costs.
The ISPs need to be provided a competitive environment, but the FCC can not allow for net neutrality to be the basis on which that environment is delivered. In 20 years from now, where will the Internet be? If these “fast lanes” are created, I don’t want to know. The government is putting their toes on a slippery slope that could create a very unfortunate and entitled Internet ecosystem. The sense of entitlement should be on the side of consumers, not the corporations and not the government.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended the stance, claiming the notion that they’re “gutting the Open Internet rule” is “flat out wrong”. But the stance is so open to interpretation that it can (and will) eventually be twisted by lobbyists and corporations.
Here are his “I’m talking but not saying anything” assurances:
The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted.
He also insisted companies would be forced to act in a “commercially reasonable manner.” If you ask me, commercially reasonable would mean keeping net neutrality… neutral… and finding other ways to correct the direction of their business that don’t violate Internet equality.
Edward Wyatt of the New York Times weighed in saying, “big, rich companies with the money to pay large fees to Internet service providers would be favored over small start-ups with innovative business models — stifling the birth of the next Facebook or Twitter.”
Perhaps Michael Weinberg of community advocacy group Public Knowledge said it best, “This standard allows Internet service providers to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet.” And then once you make it, your newly great company will be “taxed” into the ground to ensure your content/service is properly delivered on the web.
If you ask me, one of the most beautiful things of the Internet is the ridiculously low barrier to entry. Almost nothing. And the value to access is astronomical.
Netflix responded to this development by issuing the following statement, “The proposed approach is the fastest lane to punish consumers and Internet innovators.”
The more appropriate avenue to address these industry concerns would be to tell Comcast and similar companies to adjust their business model. We’ve seen mobile network providers like Verizon and AT&T deal with the bandwidth burden by adjusting their service packages based on data consumption. It might not be a popular move, but it beats what they’re proposing by light years. I’d be happy to pay a higher price and keep net neutrality intact and I think other consumers would, too, if they knew the potential long-term implications.
The government might think these “fast lanes” are a good idea to help the flow of traffic, but the only thing they’d be supporting is a highway to Internet hell.
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TAGS: Net Neutrality