We control the Internet !!!
For you very long time readers you’ll remember that back in 2008 I ranted about a incident at SES San Jose where I witness a group of young, intoxicate SEO’s traipsing down the street shouting, “We control the Internet!” This event inspired the post “We Are Not Rock Stars !!!” and while I’m content that the point of that post itself is valid I have to say that today and today alone we do in fact control the Internet but this time I’m not referring to SEO’s or marketers … I’m talking about anyone who uses the Internet at all. Today we won a major victory for net neutrality.
For those not familiar with Net Neutrality or the debate around it, it’s a complicated issue. I’ve repeatedly debated it with my radio co-host Jim Hedger including at the infamous SES Jan Jose noted above. In the debates I took the side of the Telco’s in opposing the legislation and the problem with formulating an argument is that often it let’s you see the point they’re making. To a degree that happened but to me, even understanding the view of the Telco’s, the cost was too high and the risk too great. At it’s core here’s what the sides were (and this is significantly over-simplified):
Essentially their point is that this is a capitalist society and corporations have a right to charge for their product or service as the market will bear. They argue that there is massive costs to the infrastructure and that they should be able to charge what the will for the 1s and 0s to pass through it in whatever way they deem fit.
Further, they would argue that progress will be hindered if they aren’t inspired to push forward with new technologies and enhance further their infrastructure which requires an ability to pay for said infrastructure.
Net Neutrality Supporters
Those who support new neutrality argue that it should be regulated by the FCC and classified as a public utility. This classification means the FCC can create regulations around it and also that everyone’s access to it must be equal. Essentially all the 1s and 0s traveling around the web must be treated the same be them emails, YouTube videos, Netfix movies or streaming video games (or … you know … websites we’ve optimized).
The argument they make is that allowing Internet providers the ability to slow some signals and speed others based on who pays them more will significantly impact users and progress. A major problem with this is that users wouldn’t necessarily know what was what being affected nor would they have the ability to control it. Take as an example a scenario where Netflix pays Verizon for faster access for their users. First, this cost will be passed down to the user as Netflix would have to raise their rates but that’s not so much the major issue. The bigger issue is that they argue that innovation would be stifled by companies that may not have the funds to pay that fee but which may have an excellent service that should be allowed to enter the market like companies before them. They would argue that sites like YouTube may well not have existed had this been the case and that they Internet is fundamentally an open place and should remain that way.
While I understand both sides I believe the Internet is in fact a utility. I believe that providers have the right to charge what they will for a service and that the competition inherent in the capitalist system should dictate those costs, not hidden fees behind closed doors. I believe that I pay for access to the Internet, not for an Internet skewed by different deals I have no control over. I believe I should choose what service I want, pay more for faster access directly if desired and that that should be the end of it.
I believe the ruling today covers all of this well, was moderate where it needed to be (such as keeping pricing in the hands of the Telco’s) and protective where it had to be.
I believe today was a victory.