Google and Verizon have stirred the ire of Net Neutrality proponents by working on a deal to prioritize certain web content.
At issue for consumers is how the companies that provide the pipeline to the Internet will ultimately direct traffic on their system, and how quickly consumers are able to gain access to certain Web content. Consumers could also see continually rising bills for Internet service, much as they have for cable television.
The prospect of a Google-Verizon agreement infuriates many consumer advocates, who feel that it would concentrate in a few corporations control of what to date has been a free and open Internet system in which consumers decide which companies are successful.
“The point of a network neutrality rule is to prevent big companies from dividing the Internet between them,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and a founder of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group. “The fate of the Internet is too large a matter to be decided by negotiations involving two companies, even companies as big as Verizon and Google.”
The FCC’s meetings with big internet providers were recently called off, so it’s unclear how Net Neutrality legislation will move forward.
I am somewhat divided on this issue. Currently, the more resources a content provider has, the better experience it can provide to end-users (more servers, etc.). So the internet playing field isn’t really level right now. However, in cases where ISPs are also content providers or have exclusive deals with content providers there does seem to be a risk that competing content could be restricted or even blocked. So that’s bad for competition and innovation. I had previously thought that the content companies like Google would have a vested interest in preventing ISPs from blocking content, but now I am not so sure.
The sad truth is that competition is great for society and thus business in general but bad for any specific business. The best outcome might be for the FCC to re-assert the authority over ISPs that they gave up under the Bush administration.
What do you think?