Alas, Net neutrality – I knew it well, Horatio. A system of infinite fairness, where you paid the same amount, no matter which site you were trying to get to. If you’ve been following the news, you will have heard that Netflix basically caved to Comcast and agreed to pay them more to get to Comcast customers. This pretty much means a death knell for a system where all customers get equal access to all sites.
Here’s an example that already exists: Major League Baseball. If TV obeyed the rules of neutrality, you could watch a game no matter if you have cable, satellite, DSL or FiOS. As it works out, though, MLB makes contracts with the highest bidder, locking the others out. So you can only watch the Padres if you have Cox cable. If you have AT&T U-verse or Dish Network, you’re out of luck.
The Internet providers – Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T etc. – have been trying to do a similar trick with the Internet. They want to make deals with the best Web sources and provide exclusive access with the difference that Comcast also wants to charge Netflix for distributing its content. What that means to you and me is drastically higher costs for the services we want, and quite possibly, an MLB-style blackout for other providers.
Can you imagine a world where you can only get Netflix if you have cable, but you can only get Youtube if you have AT&T? Or how about a fee for each service you access, like the packages you get for TV now? We are dangerously close to that scenario. Here’s a very simple illustration.
We’re pretty much hosed at this point – the companies with the most money have all but won. But you can still help by contacting the FCC with this form: http://www.savetheinternet.com/sti-home. Please do. You’ll thank me later.