On Net Neutrality

In general this is how I see the current debate: There’s the content part, and there’s the delivery part. How they overlap is where the issue is.

Also, it is similar to the new media debate in copyright in that the end user is suddenly now an interested party. As a rule, the end user is not an interested party in terms of how utility infrastructure is developed unless there’s an outage or high prices. The reality is in the USA both are commonplace for broadband consumption. But the reality is also that broadband is precisely for this reason not an utility, despite the increasingly important role it plays in our lives.

So you get people milling about the FCC for comments and overloading the servers. But how does that matter in terms of peering agreements or making content providers pay for direct connects? In both cases the price is passed to the customer. You would think making content provider pay is MORE pro-customer because at least that way the price increase only affect the subs of those services. I think the general public is not an intelligent or reasonable voice in this debate because ultimately their interest in this are summed up: lower prices, better services, but somehow they are generally FOR policies that is not for lower prices or better services.

Because I can assure you if you let the ISP rule the peering agreement, service levels will go up more so than having them catering to each changing player in the marketplace, and maybe they would have fewer reasons to charge the end user.

The fear that internet will become cable-ified is a legitimate fear, but it’s also driving people to not look at the situation rationally or from the big-picture view.

The reality is that successful content providers who will need “fast lanes” will have ways to pay for it. By default they are successful already, that’s why there’s a need to do this! Guaranteeing a minimum service level for all is probably the way to go, and like what qualifies for “broadband” changes over time, that service level guarantee should also change with the times. Paying for this sort of thing is a net gain for both ISP and people downstream, on paper. Just because we have these cable monopolies charging arms and legs every month doesn’t mean our internet is any good, after all, so when I see money change hands for direct connect at least I know that money goes directly to improving connectivity and service.

In other words, the public sure can have its say, but unless you are a part of that industry I don’t know who would have anything intelligent to say? It’s not a realistic thing to think that broadband is an utility in the US, because it just isn’t. Now there are systemic problems with the way we look at internet access and how that is deployed in the US, and we need to look to the government to fix it if it’s ever going to get fixed. We need to look there to figure out if it’s even worth fixing (setting up continental-USA-wide broadband with today’s tech is really expensive) yet.

All just because some couch potatoes can’t get their Netflix? Yeah, sorry I’m not exactly thinking this is for the benefit of the innovation on the internet. The money has to flow for this to happen. One way we can improve the internet is to have more money flow into the infrastructure from the content end, ie., make Netflix pay. I think this is not the worst thing if the right regulation goes into place.

In that sense I think the current debate is fine, but the public anger is largely misdirected.