There has been a lot of discussion and debate about the proposed Net Neutrality bill, and enough confusion around the whole issue, to bring into doubt what was the point of it all was to begin with. Simply put, Net Neutrality was proposed as a way of “leveling” the playing field, for Internet providers specifically, and what they can charge for access to the net, as well as what they can charge large bandwidth users for how much of that limited space they can use.
The argument for Net Neutrality seems simple enough, the proposed law (on the surface) would make anyone who provides an on-ramp to the internet, treat all web content equally, and prevent them from restricting access to certain sites or web apps, or give others the ability to pay for “premium” access. Sounds fair, right?
So, let’s say, why would I, the owner of a company that actually broadcasts large amounts content over the web, be against a law that would force companies who sell me access to the Internet to not be able to “throttle” my access, or, in any way, restrict my usage of the speeds and throughput that I want? This seems contradictory, since it appears (again, on the surface) that this bill would prevent monopolies, and make access to the *World Wide Web (*pay close attention the word “World” here) the same for everyone.
Why on EARTH would I want my access provider to be able to charge me more, if I use more? One word comes first, COMPETITION. How can an access company compete if they charge big bandwidth hogs like me the same they charge my grandmother for email? Legislating completion, as a way of preventing a monopoly, only succeeds in creating one…FOR the Government. Do you think that if Congress tried to legislate our cellular service, and restrict it to carriers that only offered 1 option to get cellular phone service from 1 company, that it would make cell reception BETTER? “Can you hear me now?” Nope.
Second is INNOVATION. What would be the incentive for any large company to find ways of making your internet experience better? Remember when the phone companies were all Ma Bell? (Pre 1980’s breakup) Long distance, especially overseas, was horrible, expensive, and hollow sounding. Now, since de-regulation and open free market forces and competitive services, long distance charges are virtually gone.
Thirdly is REGULATION. If you want to kill something slowly, regulate it. First question I have for the FCC or any agency that feels they have the right to regulate the Internet is, “Who owns the Internet?” Why does the FCC or Congress feel they have the exclusive right to regulate access to the “*Wolrd Wide Web” (there’s the word again!) tax it, or otherwise restrict any activities on it? The concept of “International Waters” comes to mind, even if a majority of the maintenance of the Web is done by American companies, there is no good method of proving that Americans should bear the burden of regulation, taxation, and policing the Web.
Finally, the biggest concern anyone should have about a Net Neutrality bill, or, a FCC takeover of regulatory control (see Title II, Telecommunications Regulation) is SERVICE. When did a Government takeover ever make any service better, more competitive, or cheaper? Let alone more FAIR! Internet time is measured in milliseconds, and if you cause a user to wait 3 more seconds to view a website, they will abandon it in huge numbers. Government never makes any service faster, simple fact. Even the Healthcare bill that passed this year has already begun to spin out of control financially, and cause LESS competition, higher rates, and more confusion as to who will pay for it, and it will not even go into effect for 3 more years. If you want to see the true motivation at the heart of this debate, look at who are for it; Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay, and other HUGE bandwidth hogs. On the opposition, you have Comcast, Time Warner, and other large ISP’s who claim it will kill their ability to profit from their investment in large infrastructure upgrades and have a right to charge what the market will bear. How evilly capitalistic of them!
The fact remains, if you make Grandma pay what I pay for access to the Internet, and you regulate every Internet Café into non-existence with rules and taxes, you not only make it patently UNFAIR for Grandma, but you are granting more rights to large companies to take advantage of tax breaks. Perhaps that’s why a majority of the Democrats who originally supported the Net Neutrality bill find themselves out of a job since the last election, and leaving any hope for a legal bill passage to be dashed, forcing a “nuclear” option by the FCC to “declare” the Internet under their jurisdiction? Where is the due process? Where do you think Freedom of Speech will run to now that the Internet will be under the watchful eye of Big Brother?
Chuck Palm is a Internet Entrepreneur and Network Engineer with 20 years of experience working online and publishing content. He has worked for the likes of IBM, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and services Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike. Currently, he is CEO of the Internet Podcasting Network (IPN), and is Executive Producer for several shows, podcasts, blogs, and all types of related content networks. Mr. Palm can be reached at IPNetcast.com and ChuckPalm.com.
Telecom Deregulation Act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_Act_of_1996
CNN Money Article” http://money.cnn.com/2010/11/03/technology/net_neutrality_election/
Pros and Cons of Net Neutrality http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Pros-and-Cons-of-Net-Neutrality-in-Two-Lists-3460
The Net Neutrality Debate – http://techcrunch.com/2008/08/31/the-net-neutrality-debate-all-on-one-page/
Internet Innovation Alliance: Internet Regulation Debate – What top telecom analysts and the media have to say about regulating the Internet under Title II http://internetinnovation.org
Excellent article from a wait-time point of view for businesses online..