You know what you find when you drain a swamp? A whole bunch of rotting detritus. I’m not going to pretend astonishment that a former Associate General Counsel from Verizon thinks net neutrality is a terrible idea. I remember getting an e-mail message from my employer, another network provider, detailing how this terrible proposal was going to drive us all out of business. Or something similarly over-dramatic.
Facilitating public comment on Executive branch proceedings, such as GoFCCYourself.com, is an interesting idea. Take a circuitous government web site that ostensibly allows individuals to post comments on issues and circumvent the terrible user interface by getting your own URL and I assume including the appropriate POST headers to get individuals in exactly the right place to submit their comments.
I’ve used this short-cut to submit my opinion to the FCC, but I also forwarded the same message to my rep in the House and my two state Senators:
I have submitted this to the FCC for Docket 17-108 but wanted to include you as well. If the FCC does roll back net neutrality, as their chairman indicates is his desire, I beseech you to ready legislative controls to prevent ISPs from using speed controls to essentially censor Internet content.
I am writing to express my support for “net neutrality” — while you want to claim it reduces carrier investment or innovation, customer acquisition and retention drives carrier investment and innovation. Lowered cost of operations, creating a service that allows a higher price point, or offering a new service unavailable through a competitor drive innovation. Allowing a carrier to create a new revenue stream by charging content providers for faster access is not innovation – QoS has been around for decades. And it isn’t like the content is being delivered to the Internet for free. Content providers already pay for bandwidth — and a company like Netflix probably paid a LOT of money for bandwidth at their locations. If Verizon didn’t win a bid for network services to those locations, that’s Verizon’s problem. Don’t create a legal framework for every ISP to profit from *not* providing network services for popular sites; the network provider needs to submit a more competitive bid.
What rolling back net neutrality *does* is stifle customers and content providers. If I, as a customer, am paying 50$ a month for my Internet service but find the content that I *want* is de-prioritized and slowed … well, in a perfect capitalist system, I would switch to the provider who ‘innovates’ and goes back to their 2017 configurations. But broadband access – apart from some major metro areas – is not a capitalist system. Where I live, outside of the Cleveland suburbs, I have my choice of the local cable company or sat – sat based Internet introduces a lot of latency and is quite expensive for both the customer and the operator (and has data limits, which themselves preclude a lot of network-intensive traffic that ISPs wish to de-prioritize). That’s not a real choice — pay 50$ to this company who is going to de-prioritize anyone who doesn’t pay their network bandwidth ransom or pay 100$ to some other company that is unable to provide sufficiently low latency to allow me to work from home. So add a hour of commute time, fuel, vehicle wear, and reduced family time to that 100$ bill.
Rolling back net neutrality stifles small businesses — it’s already difficult to compete with large corporations who have comparatively unlimited budgets for advertising and lawyers. Today, a small business is able to present their product online with equal footing. In 1994, I worked at a small University. One of my initiatives was to train departmental representatives on basic HTML coding so the college would have an outstanding presence on the Internet. First hour of the first day of the training session included a method for checking load times off campus without actually having to leave the campus network. On campus, we were 10 meg between buildings and the server room and anything loaded quite quickly. At home, a prospective student was dialing in on a 28.8 modem. If your content is a web page for MIT, a prospective engineering student may be willing to click your site, go eat dinner, and come back. Load time isn’t as much of a problem for an organisation with a big name and reputation. Unknown little University in Western PA? Click … wait … wait, eh, never mind. The advent of DSL was amazing to me because it provided sufficient bandwidth and delivered content with parity that allowed an unknown Uni to offer a robust web site with videos of the exciting research opportunities available to students and the individual attention from professors that small class sizes allow. No longer did we need to restrict graphics and AV on our site because we weren’t a ‘big name’ University. That there ever was a debate about removing this parity astonished me.
Aside from my personal opinion, what is the impact of non-neutral networks on free speech? Without robust legal controls, ISPs engage in a form of quasi-censorship. How do you intend to prevent abuse of the system? Is a large corporation going to be able to direct “marketing” dollars to speeding up their page to the harm of their competitors? Can the Coca-Cola Company pay millions of dollars to have their content delivered faster than PepsiCo’s? Is the ISP then the winner in a bidding war between the two companies? What about political content? Does my ISP now control the speed at which political content is delivered? What happens when Democrats raise more money in the Cleveland metro area and conservative views are relegated to the ‘slow’ lane? What happens when the FCC gets de-prioritized because ISPs want even less regulation??
I would still worry about the legal controls to prevent quasi-censorship, but I would object less if the FCC were to implement the net neutrality requirements like some of the telco regulations for CLEC’s where there were no ILEC’s had been — where there is no or limited competition, net neutrality is a requirement. Where there are a dozen different ISP options, they can try selling the QoS’d packages. Polls and voting aside, the ISP will find out exactly how many customers or content providers support non-neutral networks.