This is a belated reaction to the court decision that the FCC lacked authority to enforce Net Neutrality, I’ve been meaning to write on it for quite some time but we’ve been hard at work here and haven’t had much time for anything outside of coding. In any case the concept of Net Neutrality is somewhat obsceure, not many people understand what it means. The standard definition is that all traffic should be treated equally. What that really means is that the YouTube you love to watch, the Google you love to search, the Yahoo you love to browse cannot be blocked, given different priority, or sold to you by your ISP.
Your ISP though has another idea, the ISP says that since they control the lines that give you the web they should be able to control the traffic you want to see. Now in all fairness, most people probably wouldn’t use an ISP that requires you to pay for YouTube when another ISP will give you access for free, not now at least… I know many gamers who switched from Comcast to Wide Open West specifically because Comcast restricted gamers use of bandwidth.
It’s easy to see the reason that Net Neutrality is important to defend, the web’s at it’s core has been a great equalizer in the world because of net neutrality. It’s the reason why Meg Whitmann could start ebay in her house and have her business available to millions instantly, or the reason Larry Page could create a search engine that overtakes big guys like Yahoo and Microsoft from a garage in Silicon Valley. It represents everything that makes web great, it gives the new entrepreneur the ability to market the same way that big companies can without having to have deep pockets to do so.
Imagine a web where someone like Larry Page and Sergey Brin decide they had a good idea for a search engine but found that they had to pay a fee to bring it to market the same way that you would if you wanted to create a tv station that’s carried by cable. In fact it’s because of Net Neutrality you are able to create channel’s on YouTube free of charge and you have access to the complete market. Imagine a web where you could only buy from one music store depending on who your ISP was, restricting what devices you could buy and what you can listen to. I am one of the (very) few people who own a Zune, I love my Zune but lets face it if my ISP had a deal with iTunes they could effectively kill my ability to get music from the Zune Marketplace if it wasn’t for Net Neutrality.
On the other side the notion is that you cannot restrict what a company does with it’s own lines. The court’s verdict reflected this view in the FCC case. If you are of the view that companies would be committing suicide by restricting access think of your cell phone companies. It only takes one guy to test the waters out by offering cheap service that doesn’t allow you to go to bandwidth sucking sites, once enough people buy the service other companies will follow then they will get rid of their unlimited plans and we’ll be stuck paying for minutes like in the old AOL day’s. Cell plans followed the same path, in 1999 I had an unlimited nextel plan for $59 a month. In 2001 I restarted cell phone service with the same company but found that for that price I could only get 500 minutes with incoming for free. In 2004 I switched to another provider and could only get 500 any time minutes and free night and weekends starting at 9:00, and now I pay over twice that amount for my unlimited plan on my smart phone.