Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Net Neutrality Redux

A few months ago I awarded the TelCo giants the oh-so-coveted (quite openly by some one) Asshole of the Week Award for being greedy bastards and fighting against 'Net Neutrality'. Well, the issue is back in the news, and for a refresher see here for the superwonk version.

Or, for the quick and dirty on why Net Neutrality is important, see Ezra:
See, the telecoms don’t much like that there net neutrality standard and are hoping to overturn it and gain complete control and total discretion over the use of their pipes. And with 20 companies accounting for nearly 94 percent of broadband subscribers (and again, these aren’t necessarily your providers, but the phone and cable companies who control the physical infrastructure) – not to mention SBC and AT&T merging—there really will be no escape from their rules.

Here’s what that would look like: Right now, the net is best described by its ubiquitous pseudonym: the information superhighway. It is, essentially, an interstate, freely traveled by all cars, regardless of weight. What the telecoms want is to section it off into a series of toll roads, which will charge based on vehicle characteristics. So heavy travelers – sites like Google and AOL and Yahoo and YouTube – will be charged far more, at least at the beginning, than light travelers (say, local community bulletin boards). Fair’s fair, right?

Not quite. The next step would be for the telecoms to enter into content distribution deals with various providers. Think of the toll road operator partnering up with Toyota, and attempting to choke Toyota’s competition by making it prohibitively expensive for competing sedans. So assume SBC/AT&T partners with Google Video, the logical next step would be knocking down YouTube’s challenge by jacking up their connection rates or slowing down users who access them through the SBC/AT&T pipes. It’s easy enough, you don’t block their content, you just handicap it a bit, killing off competitors and heading off newcomers. You’re the Tonya Harding of the internet.
Typically, the usual suspects are spouting off about 'property rights' which is simply codeword for monopolistic price gouging and profiteering. Not to mention the possibilities for abuse if content distribution is tightly controlled by a small group of big businesses. I don't think you need to be a tinfoil hattress to think of reasons why that might be a bad idea, all things considered.

Not they you can neccesarily blame the TelCo bosses. If I were a CEO, I might want some of what this guy is getting, too.

Update 4/26/06: Matt Yglesias cuts to the point:
Basically, insofar as my home internet options become faster/better/cheaper, that's good for a company like Amazon or Google which benefits from people using the web a lot. Insofar as my home internet options get slower/expensive/worse, that's bad for those companies. It's not that, deep down, they have my best interests at heart. Rather, on this particular issue our interests seem to be aligned. . .

Maybe I've got this wrong. Maybe someone can point to Amazon's insidious hidden agenda here and if so I'd be interested in reading about it. But I can't see what that would be. It's easy to see why the telecom firms might have a motive for liking Barton-Rush that involves screwing me over; it's hard for me to see how Google's opposition to it could be grounded in some desire to screw me over. So that's where I stand unless someone has a debunking of this.
In a nutshell, yes.


Icepick said...

Hell, Pooh, as long as I'm up against TelComs and record companies I haven't got a chance. I'd be better off competing aginst the guys that club the baby seals to death and nun-harassers.

Fletch said...

I really don't see the telecoms winning on this one. Double charging for access seems like a loser. Its as if Fed-Ex charged for the sender and again on delivery.

Net neutrality really is whizzing around the blogosphere, zunta posted something that might interest you (sorry that I'm too lazy to code it):

Pooh said...

Big business losing a political fight? The best news is that the Amazons/Googles, etc. are fighting hard the other way, thank goodness.