Net Neutrality Part II

Posted by Thomas Wed, 26 Sep 2007 00:54:32 +0000

This post probably isn’t quite baked all the way, but you get the drift and I get it out of my draft blog posts…

I wrote Part I quite a long time ago, but recently, the Justice department released an opinion coming out in favor of allowing market forces to determine whether or not an ISP can offer non-net-neutrality tiered services. And the I’d-rather-see-less-legislation-than-more-legislation side of me can see their argument. But I’m not really sure here that free market forces would truly be able to outweigh the telco’s greed and desire to get in on a piece of the proverbial pie. We’re talking about a service that every day comes closer and closer to being less like a luxury and more like a necessity (almost as much as electricity, water, etc.).

So, they cite the Post Office, charging differently for different types and sizes of parcels, expediency requirements, and safety requirements. That’s fine. That’s the market at work responding to people’s willingness to pay more for more services, while a perfectly reasonable form of sending a package will always exist at an acceptably low cost. But, this does not directly correspond to what I think has been proposed. What has been proposed is that someone would pay not based on the size or type of parcel, but what the parcel contains. I suppose the Postal Service analogy does make its way through, in that the sender (the website you’re trying to reach) would have to cough up the extra change. But there the parallel breaks down because then you don’t really have control if the website you want to go to has paid extortion money to your ISP to actually allow them onto their network.

So, in this parcel analogy, let’s say there is no other option but FedEx Express Shipping. Shipping is cheap, and everybody’s parcel is equal, and things get around the country pretty quickly. Let’s say you just bought a book from Amazon. They ship it, it goes into shipping first come, first served, and you get your book. In this new world though, Amazon has to pay for your package just to eventually arrive at your house. I suppose they could even do tiers and say you have to pay us to even allow your package through FedEx shipping, pay even more to get the old level of service, and can pay even more for Extra-Express Shipping, which will bump you to the front of the line in the FedEx shipping world. Now that may be fine if I choose exactly how quickly I want my book to get here, but it’s not ok if the shipper extorts money from the big shippers like Amazon and plays favorites with some other book seller.

Shouldn’t market forces drive the cost down and the quality of service (no pun intended) up? Doesn’t Amazon sign a deal with FedEx that’s mutually beneficial to both of them, and the consumer.

I think there’s also a lot to be said about how people don’t really have a choice when buying high speed internet. I ran across a comparison of provider choice in the US versus the UK and it was mind boggling. They had something like 50 providers to choose from where we have 2. Doubtful that the market can work itself out with odds like that.

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