The FCC voted in new “Net Neutrality” rules on Tuesday, that have been criticized from many angles: Why everyone hates new net neutrality rules—even NN supporters.
Regulation should serve to create the sort of marketplace that incentivizes innovation and the improvement of services for the public. Neutrality rules that allow paid prioritization are very helpful for ISPs trying to deal with oh-so-much-Netflix-traffic, but they’re a crutch to lean on instead of expanding the amount of bandwidth available. As the US is not in first place as far as individual bandwidth is concerned, regulatory structures should encourage competition that leads to improvements to match the level of services people desire.
The FCC says that paid prioritization isn’t going to pass muster, but I suspect the paid peering agreements that have become standard will survive the “reasonable network management” test. They are probably reasonable. The rules voted in yesterday sum up to an understanding of Web as few-to-many broadcast. The many-to-many options for sharing, like Limewire are sued and pressured to shut down, because it is understood that they are for transmission of the few-to-many content. This understanding, and the “neutrality” rules that come out of it dampen the possibility that viral homegrown media on the many-to-many principle will take off and turn into a mainstream phenomenon. If large bandwidth requires transport agreements with all the major ISPs because the open-to-all Web infrastructure isn’t good enough, homegrown peer2peer solutions will remain second class citizens. The FCC decision didn’t take the sort of future it wanted to incentivize into account.
Like Google, I agree that the wireless market is somewhat more competitive than wireline broadband, though the standard 2-year contracts for phones makes it hard for customers’ displeasure to be accurately detected by defections. For example, say Verizon does something so horrible that it makes a significant chunk of its smartphone users to want to defect to another carrier. Suppose it blocks [insert whichever site you rely on for information on the go but doesn’t quite compete with them directly, which would trigger the discrimination rule]. Few people could afford the termination fee (Isn’t it $350 for “advanced devices” now?), so protests to the change would trickle in over the following 22 months and would be indistinguishable from other switches. There’s no way to send a provider a message that consumers disapprove of non-neutral network practices.
And the wireline market is way less competitive than this. For most of the areas I’ve lived, including in the middle of Eugene, OR, there were very few choices for broadband home Internet. I didn’t have a home phone, and couldn’t switch to DSL, so….
I have a feeling that the fact that virtually all the public statements are against non-neutrality will have some of the effect that actual unconstrained consumer switching choices could have on real non-neutral practices. The ISPs know that most of the public (at least the segment that pays attention to this kind of thing) is against network partiality. I think this is why they keep their peering agreements behind NDAs. The FCC just doesn’t admit that we, the consumers, don’t have anticompetitive weapons of our own, besides those words.