The latest development in ‘net neutrality’ discussions has been the involvement of several lobbyists and interest groups, mostly speaking on behalf of Silicon Valley Internet content producers, who support the notion that the FCC regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as ‘common carriers’, like railroads and utilities. These groups appeal to legal precedents put in place over the past century that regulated permissibly monopolized businesses and aimed to prevent these ‘common carriers’ from prioritizing their services to the highest bidding companies and then grossly overcharging or neglecting service to the little guys.
These negotiations come at a time when the FCC, ISPs, and other interested parties are vying over whether ISPs can sell ‘fast lane’ Internet connections to those content producers willing to pay for faster service to customers. Content producers, especially streaming audio and video services, worry about what limitless fees and charges could be coming down the pike if the big ISPs like Comcast and AT&T, who have monopolies or duopolies over most local consumer markets, use their leverage to demand higher fees for faster service or else. ISPs have responded with concerns that government regulation could stifle innovation, which has been key to the growth of high-speed broadband Internet service across the country. Both sides have valid concerns about the future of their revenues and their customer bases as we move forward through a constantly evolving Internet landscape.
So what do you think? Would subjecting ISPs to utility-like oversight lead to a more level playing field? Or should multiple ISPs be free to compete for your business, even if ‘fast lane’ priorityservices were part of the mix? Which path would lead to a more free, open, and affordable Information Superhighway?
In the meantime, get used to seeing some back-and-forth between content providers and ISPs: