2011, Net Neutrality, A Couple of Misconceptions and Realities

Steven Hodson

If you want to start a passionate discussion in tech circles just mention Net Neutrality and FCC in the same sentence. If you want to get a lot of blank stares and shuffling of feet just mention net neutrality at your next PTA meeting or neighborhood corner bar.

There is a lot being made about a recent poll by polling company Rasmussen where they found that one in five Americans want the FCC to regulate the Internet. From Huffington Post to reddit you can see the techies get all their panties in a knot and you have host of podcasts, like Buzz Out Loud, proclaiming that 2011 will be the year that the whole net neutrality issue explodes.

Let's clear up this first misconception.

It will not explode.

The first reality about this is that it won't explode because it is not an election year in the US.

The second reality is that it will not explode because; as many people have pointed out, both before and after this latest poll published to get big tech press, the majority of American do not know what the hell net neutrality even means; and a larger percentage of those people couldn't give a shit about it.

Net neutrality is a nebulous term at the best of times but it becomes even more so when you have companies and governments using the concept as a political football; which is exactly what the companies involved in the business want to happen.

The only thing exploding is the general consumers heads as they here the term being thrown around because for the most part if it doesn't interfere with their Facebooking or getting email they couldn't care less.

The next misconception: it will sort itself out, we don't need to worry about it.

No, it won't sort itself out.

At least not in a way that will benefit the consumer in the long run because of the simple reality is that access to the Internet is controlled by corporations.

One doesn't need a degree in economics or business to know that the prime purpose of any corporation is to make as much money as possible with the least amount of expenditures.

Granted, setting up, maintaining, and improving the infrastructure behind the web that we use every day is expensive; but, the fact is that the businesses involved will do whatever they can to postpone improvements for as long as they can.

In our business world corporate growth often means consolidation and acquisitions. With consolidation we have fewer but larger companies who control bigger segments of a market and can do so with lesser repercussions. Then of course is the mindset, especially amongst providers is that instead of having to pay for content to provide acquire the companies already doing that and control even more of the market.

The corporate world is about control and reducing any competition as much as they can. It is no different when it comes to companies that provide access to the Internet. We are constantly seeing consolidation amongst the access providers; and with the Comcast and NBC deal we are seeing the content provider acquisition part of the equation in all its glory.

There is a growing lack of competition and the end result that the end user will have fewer and fewer options. As this happens we will see the growth of trends of things like caps and traffic management; which are already occurring, increase and having to pay a higher prices for those services.

One last misconception is that this is just all about politics.

The reality here is that this is exactly what the companies what you think. The fact is that this doesn't, and doesn't need to have anything to do with the government. There is absolutely no reason for the government to get involved.

Yet we find companies that continue to push the limits of the consumer until the government has no choice but to step in due to the consumer demanding that somebody do something to stop the gouging of their wallets. When this point is reached the companies don't care if the government gets involved because they will have achieved their goals.

The first goal being that they have reached the top end of the tolerance level of the consumer so even if the government forces them to step back they are already ahead of the game. the second point is that they now have given the consumer a much bigger target for future unrest and anger - the government. Now they will be able to point the finger at what ever government is in power and say - don't blame us ... blame them knowing full well that even as much as the consumer may hate the corporation they hate government worse.

Is net neutrality important?

In my opinion - yes.

Should the government be forced to have to step in?

No they shouldn't.

Will they be forced to?


Will the Web end up benefiting if they do?