I thought I had a clear understanding of what Net Neutrality means for the consumer, and how I should feel about it. However, I came across an article that raised some interesting questions. There has been some recent media activity around new Net Neutrality rules being brokered by the FCC. This is an important issue that could change the way we use the internet. What could change? At the very least, the amount we pay for access and the accessibility of content. This is huge. So I want to learn more. Please comment with your two-cents or a link to someone else’s.
This is the articles that peaked my interest this morning. It got me thinking about where the costs for developing a better internet should fall. It is expensive to build and maintain the infrastructure that supports our ever increasing consumption of cat videos and House of Cards (aside: my very empirical search for the number of cat videos on youtube came to about 31,900,000). Content providers, such as Google and Netflix, that feed our impulse to gorge on all things cutesy and corrupt require a lot of bandwidth. Service providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, could simply charge content providers for access to better bandwidth. But this is not Net Neutral. It creates a situation where the big players, like Google who can afford the better bandwidth, get preferential treatment. Small companies or start-ups will have to live with slow content delivery until they can afford the faster piping. This seems bad. Cash-money will drown innovation and free-flow of information.
But, let’s say the FCC keep the Net Neutral. This is what Google wants, supposedly because they believe in a “free internet” but more likely because they won’t have to pay for the better bandwidth. Well, free internet is free internet, it will be good for Google but it will also be good for the consumer, right? It seems to be more complicated than that. It is still expensive for service providers, so will they just eat the cost? No, they will likely pass the cost on to the consumer through increases in monthly subscriptions for wired broadband or ‘pay for use’ as is the case with many mobile phone data plans.
So, while I believe both a neutral Net and fast Net is a good thing in that it allows for information to flow freely and smoothly, who is going to pay for it? Perhaps we, as a society, need to weigh what is more important. Do we want an internet that levels the playing field or do want an internet that delivers cat videos in an instant? Ok, yes, this framing reveals my bias, but I really think we need to grapple with an expensive, world-changing truth if we want both free and fast internet. Maybe the government should subsidize service providers who spend on increased bandwidth capabilities? Is speed that important to our society? Probably.
Please share thoughts and links. I’m sure I got some things wrong as I am still learn about this topic. Help me learn more, it seems important.
…ok, just one video to feed the beast…