Monday, December 20, 2010

Net Neutrality?

I'm curious to hear from readers on their take on net neutrality.

Proponents of FCC rules protecting a neutral internet claim the rules are necessary to prevent service providers from making deals with businesses to allow their websites to load faster than their competitors.This is the argument Senator Al Franken makes on the Huffington Post.

Opponents of FCC rules protecting a neutral internet claim the rules are unnecessary, because no abuses are taking place and the rules will reduce the dynamic and free space that is the internet by inhibiting private investment into new technologies and improvements to internet access. This is the argument Robert McDowell makes in the Wall Street Journal.

Interestingly, both of these editorials are unhappy with the FCC vote tomorrow. Franken thinking it's worse than doing nothing and McDowell thinking it's the beginning of the end.

As someone who is highly suspicious of the abilities of corporations to govern themselves I think we're looking at a "not if, but when" scenario. At some point, if it's not happening already, the internet providers will find ways to monetize speed and access. It's also possible that large multi-industry corporations will block or slow their competitor's pages, because they hold the gate key. This is Franken's argument with regard to Comcast charging Netflix's streaming partner, Level 3 Communications, additional fees due to the bandwidth Comcast customers are eating up watching movies online.

I also don't think I see McDowell's investment argument happening either. There will still be a robust marketplace for making the internet faster and better. I imagine we're only seeing the beginning of what is possible with online information and communication. Phone companies didn't stop innovating when federal regulations cracked down on monopolization and FCC rules for the web will not stop innovation either.

Anyway, what's your take?


  1. Would are free speech be assured if it wasn't explicitly stated?

  2. According to Wired, differentiated costs are already in the works... I would understand if Internet providers wanted to charge more for higher bandwidth or speed (which they already do). But what they're trying to get with this, is to have the ability to control a user's access to different sources. That, to me, sounds like a slippery slope toward censorship. Or at least the ability to discriminate against certain websites (cof, cof, WikiLeaks, cof, cof).
    Now, the conversation about how to regulate is completely different. To be honest, I do not know what is being voted on, so let me go read some more on this...

  3. The internet is an economic utility. It's used to make money. Left completely unregulated it will turn into a closed marketplace where content accessible to consumers is determined by the large, monied players (like film, radio and television). And, as Franken points out, this will inevitably lead to trouble when the corporate gatekeepers want to play dirty against political competition.

    Neutrality is a must. If it takes a form of (stronger) regulation to accomplish, so be it.

  4. " the internet providers will find ways to monetize speed and access. " This is what it's all about. Creating a two tiered system where you pay out the nose for top speed. You can fully expect ISPs to favor content they provide over that of non-providing competitors.

    But the biggest boon to the big ISPs in this ruling is the absence of rules for wireless internet. This is the undiscovered country of the internet. This is where they will make shit tons of money in the future. And the prices believe you me will affect people unequally. NO BUENO.