On Net Neutrality

Since Tuesday’s Court Appeals ruling repealing the FCC’s ruling that Comcast (and other Broadband service providers) could not limit their bandwidth to certain websites or services, and thus keep the Internet free and open, there as been a lot of talk about what exactly this means for big companies and for us, the consumers. I weighed in on this almost four years ago, when now shamed Sen. Ted Stevens decided to simultaneously butcher the concept of the Internet and the English Language. So, what’s  the deal with Net Neutrality?

From Both Sides

The people against Net Neutrality (NN) claim the Government would be over-reaching its authority in order to try to control an industry, which is anti-capitalism. The people for NN say that if left alone, broadband providers like Comcast and Time Warner will eventually start limiting bandwidth (essentially, how much speed/memory we get to view things on the Internet) to websites that they either compete with or want to charge more for us to use. For example, if Comcast finds that Hulu is taking away from their ratings, or their own streaming video service, they can make it so Hulu goes really slow for us unless we pay them more a month for it. It’s essentially a capitalism vs. free speech argument.

The Anti-NN camp says that there is no reason for us to think this. These people seem to forget that in 1998, Microsoft was sued in an anti-trust case over the same fears. Microsoft was bundling IE with Windows, which means they could block competitors and promote their own sites and applications. The difference is that service providers actually do control bandwidth, and Comcast did in-fact start limiting bandwidth to services such as Bit Torrent. And it’s not like we haven’t seen cable companies try to go too far. Let’s not forget the anti-trust case that let to AT&T getting broken up in 1984 into “Ma Bell” and the baby bells, or the blackouts people have been experiencing lately because cable providers and broadcasting companies are having  a hard time working things out (hint: it’s because of money).

In general, I am not for more government regulation. However, big companies do need to be kept in check so they don’t screw the consumer. You want to promote capitalism, protect the consumer, not the power hungry corporation. If things do get as bad as people  think they will, a lot of online start-ups and small businesses could be hurt because nothing is put in place to keep service providers in check. Bandwidth could go to the highest bidder.

The USA Todays has bother views in their Opinion Column today- Here is the For NN vs. Against NN. Feel free to weigh in in the comments.

If you want to do something about it, head on over to Save the Internet.