While You Were Sleeping: Network Neutrality and You

Is or will the internet ever be free?

Is or will the internet ever be free?

For the average consumer who accesses online content daily, the idea that this will not always be a free exchange of ideas seems foreign. Yet there is an ongoing war in the courts between broadband service providers and the FCC over the continuing state of the internet as we know it in good old 2014.

The battle that is being waged is over “Net Neutrality.” For the layperson, net neutrality is the concept that all internet users and content suppliers are treated equally. For the tech-no-geeks among us, Capstone Media prefers to reference TechTarget.com’s great definition, “Net neutrality is the principle that data packets on the Internet should be moved impartially, without regard to content, destination or source.” TechTarget goes on to say that “Net neutrality is sometimes referred to as the ‘First Amendment of the Internet.”

So what happens if, as defined above, the net is not neutral?

Then ISPs (internet service providers) such as AOL, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable – would be free to charge a premium to direct users more quickly to some sites than others.

Consider the ramifications of this. Since “data packets” (information combined into a single packet for transmission) on the internet flow through data pipelines of various, but limiting, sizes (band width); those paying a premium will have first dibs on the available flow of information, effectively slowing down any sites that don’t pay a premium.

And, for those with deep pockets, a bidding war could likely develop in order to secure the quickest download/upload speeds for their data. This is great for the ISPs, terrible for the users and content providers not financially capable of the potential fee structure. According to a recent article in Advertising Age, the passed buck could make its way to Madison Avenue. Advertisers that pay a premium to reach audiences through digital video services (think Hulu) could find themselves paying twice: once for the ad and again for the bandwidth that keeps the service “free”.

In a world reliant on the flow of information; the control of the flow and thereby the actual content of that information would be the domain of the highest bidder.

One would have to wonder if you would be afforded the opportunity to even read this blog piece under those circumstances.

Related Articles
This brave new world may not be that far away “Appeals court strikes down FCC’s Net neutrality rules”, by Marguerite Reardon, January 14, 2014, C/Net.

For a different perspective see “With Its ‘Net Neutrality’ Case Against Verizon, The FCC Loses – Again” by Harold Furchtgott-Roth, forbes.com.

Why Advertisers Will Survive Just Fine Without Net Neutrality (But Should Support It Anyway). Marketers Have Some Tough Choices to Make by Tim Peterson, January 20, 2014.

And if you’re really looking for a lot of data, check out Huff Post’s Net Neutrality page.