Net neutrality, however idyllic in principle, comes with a price. The following article was written to shed some light on the big money behind the propaganda of net neutrality. It may change your views, but at the very least it will peel back one more layer of the the onion that is the issue of net neutrality.
First, an analogy to set the stage:
I live in a neighborhood that equally shares a local community water system among 60 residential members. Nobody is metered. Through a mostly verbal agreement, all users try to keep our usage to a minimum. This requires us to be very water conscious, especially in the summer months when the main storage tanks need time to recharge overnight.
Several years ago, one property changed hands, and the new owner started raising organic vegetables using a drip irrigation system. The neighborhood precedent had always been that using water for a small lawn and garden area was an accepted practice, however, the new neighbor expanded his garden to three acres and now sells his produce at the local farmers market. Even with drip irrigation, his water consumption is likely well beyond the rest of the neighborhood combined.
You can see where I am going with this. Based on this scenario, it’s obvious that an objective observer would conclude that this neighbor should pay an additional premium — especially when you consider he is exploiting the community water for a commercial gain.
The Internet, much like our neighborhood example, was originally a group of cooperating parties (educational and government institutions) that connected their networks in an effort to easily share information. There was never any intention of charging for access amongst members. As the Internet spread away from government institutions, last-mile carriers such as cable and phone companies invested heavily in infrastructure. Their business plans assumed that all parties would continue to use the Internet with lightweight content such as Web pages, e-mails, and the occasional larger document or picture.
In the latter part of 2007, a few companies, with substantial data content models, decided to take advantage of the low delivery fees for movies and music by serving them up over the Internet. Prior to their new-found Internet delivery model, content providers had to cover the distribution costs for the physical delivery of records, video cassettes and eventually discs.
As of 2010, Internet delivery costs associated with the distribution of media had plummeted to near zero. It seems that consumers have pre-paid their delivery cost when they paid their monthly Internet bill. Everybody should be happy, right?
The problem is, as per our analogy with the community water system, we have a few commercial operators jamming the pipes with content, and jammed pipes have a cost. Upgrading a full Internet pipe at any level requires a major investment, and providers to date are already leveraged and borrowed with their existing infrastructure. Thus, the Internet companies that carry the data need to pass this cost on to somebody else.
As a result of these conflicting interests, we now have a pissing match between carriers and content providers in which the latter are playing the “neutrality card” and the former are lobbying lawmakers to grant them special favors in order to govern ways to limit access.
Therefore, whether it be water, the Internet or grazing on public lands, absolute neutrality can be problematic — especially when money is involved. While the concept of neutrality certainly has the overwhelming support of consumer sentiment, be aware that there are, and always will be, entities exploiting the system.
For more on NetFlix, see Level 3-Netflix Expose their Hidden Agenda.