The Net Neutrality Culture Clash

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092509_napsterThe concept of Net Neutrality and related legislation intended to preserve the open internet is getting more attention recently.  On the surface it seems pretty clear cut. Keep internet access open for all.

The FCC has been using four principles to guide their enforcement of existing regulations. They are: 1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice; 2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice (as long as they are legal); 3) consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and 4) consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, content providers, and application and service providers. Fairly straightforward, right?

So what’s all the buzz about? The four principles aren’t law, just guidelines. Actually, temporary gentlemen agreements put in place to ensure a competitive internet marketplace to gain approval for certain telecom mergers in the past few years. It’s the interpretation of these principles and making them law that are creating all the fireworks.

Rather than get into the nuts and bolts of the legislative wrangling that’s ramping up, let’s look at the big picture from a societal perspective. I contend that if you’re part of the GenY generation and younger, anything on the internet is part of your entitlement mindset: “I want it now and I don’t want to pay for it.”

Conversely, the companies that own the internet “pipes” contend that broadband infrastructure is not cheap, and keeping up with increasing bandwidth demands is expensive. Some say that’s just an excuse to justify their lust for profit. Damn capitalists!

The Gen Y’s grew up in the days of Napster and its variants, learning that music on the net is free. Fast forward to today, and you’ve got movies available online that are free – depending on where you look. So pay for content – are you kidding? Downloading all that free music and those videos and movies is great, but who pays for the enormous bandwidth usage, not to mention the content creators?

Looking at the ISP’s, media companies and other internet properties – they want to get paid for their services and content. The problem lies  with companies owning content and infrastructure. The potential here for abuse and double-dip profits may be too hard to resist.

How will the Net Neutrality tussle be resolved? I’ll bet in the next year or so, ISP’s and broadband providers adopt a bandwidth usage pricing model. Use 800 GB of data transfer in a month and pay one price, use 6TB, you’ll pay more. Makes sense doesn’t it? Pay for what you use and be compensated fairly for the service you provide.The open nature of the net will be protected, it’ll just get more expensive to use it.

The trick will be crafting legislation that eliminates the possibility for abuse by users or providers. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens.

What’s your take on Net Neutrality? Let me know what you think!

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