It would be the biggest geek impossible dream but it is an idea I had that could potentially stop the current crop of broadband providers dead in their tracks.
In light of the news that the FCC lost in court to Comcast there is a big fear, and well justified in my opinion, that this will now open up the floodgates of consumer abuse by Comcast and other providers. After all it’s not like that haven’t asked us to pass the Vaseline before.
This got me thinking if there were any alternatives for keeping these companies in check and actually doing things to make access to the Internet less of an increasing expense and at the same time remove any threats of favoritism aka payola for some sites over others.
Unfortunately the next part of this post is pure and utter fantasy because as much as such an idea actually come to fruition is unlikely to happen it sure would shake up the broadband provider business.
I have said on more than one occasion that for real net neutrality broadband providers have to be providers of the dumb pipe. Nothing more and nothing less. The moment you add in any other kind of profit oriented business that depends on the web there is an inherent prejudice and need to constantly increase prices.
So who could provide that dumb pipe?
Well truthfully anyone of the current big boys of the broadband business could be but chances are they would face a shareholder revolt. It’s okay to screw the consumer as long as the shareholders are getting their pound of flesh and the top management is getting their multi-million dollar payouts.
Who has the most to gain from a cheap and ubiquitous Web?
Let’s see .. how about Microsoft? Or Google? And let’s not forget Apple.
These three giants of computing have the most to gain .. and to lose .. from a possible preferential and expensive Web. Just as companies like Comcast have no compunction in giving the consumer the shaft they won’t have any problem holding web companies hostage. A good hint at this was the recent spat between ABC and Cablevision where the television network wanted more money and Cablevision said no. Guess who blinked first?
In the case of the Web it could just as easily happen that Comcast or anyone, or all for that matter, says to Google or Apple that they want money from the companies in exchange for preferential service . The threat being that if they don’t pay up those companies could find themselves with increasing bottlenecks and other related network problems.
Think that this wouldn’t happen? Think again.
Now between the three companies they have a total of $89 Billion sitting in their warchests (MS – $45B, Apple – $25B, Google – $22B – figures based on 2009 and 2008 information). That kind of money tends to talk volumes and even the threat of utilizing part of it to fund an alternative to our current choices of broadband providers would be enough to give Comcast and the others great pause.
This kind of project can’t work if only one company decides to give it a shot regardless of what Google thinks. It also can’t work if only two companies decide to go down that road. No, this would require all three (or possibly more if you throw in Intel or say HP) to work in unison to even get the idea off the ground. It would also have to be a case of where all participants in such an idea would always be on equal footing with the other members.
At some point for the Internet to truly be a world changer access has to be dirt cheap and available from anywhere in the world on any kind of device. There are a lot of countries that believe this but unfortunately neither the US or Canada is one of those countries. If we really want to see transformative technologies like we have never seen before the time of treating Internet access as an endless ATM machine has to come to an end.
Unfortunately none of the major broadband providers in the US or Canada so any inclination to this into consideration. The end result of this is that both countries are inevitably going to find themselves sliding down the ladder of technology and the ability to contribute to real change in the world.
It doesn’t have to be this way and maybe it will take companies like Google, like Microsoft and like Apple joining together to even have the possibility of this happening.
But like I said .. it’s a pipe dream. A nice delusional dream but a dream all the same.