Thursday, January 16, 2014

Broadband Could Bundle Like Cable

The loss of net neutrality has many folks fearing that equal access to content will no longer be equal.  Where the FCC tried to ensure that all content was treated equally regardless of its size, the recent US Court order has opened Pandora's Box to new concerns including higher costs to access higher speeds and bundling of content online.  And ultimately, that consumers will pay more to access content.

Critics of the new ruling believe that now ISP companies, the ones providing broadband service to your home, will charge content companies more to get HOV access and faster speeds.  More established and richer content platforms, can afford to pay up, but they might also need to raise their subscription fees to recoup those added costs.

ISPs, like Comcast and Time Warner, could also start charging consumers more usage fees and bundle content to customers that want to receive faster streams.  "The cheapest, fastest bundles will probably include the sites that pay ISPs the most -- most likely the big boys, including Amazon and Netflix. Another possibility is that ISPs could bundle popular sites with less-popular ones that are willing to pay. If you pay for a Netflix bundle, for example, you may be forced to use the Bing search engine."  Good for the more established brands, but bad for new platforms and its content trying to get discovered and viewed.  It starts to look eerily reminiscent of today's cable packaging plans.

And while the internet is not a utility, it certainly has become useful for utilitarian purposes from communication to information.  "Access to unrestricted news will become a luxury reserved only for those who can pay more to their providers."  Schools and libraries could become the best meeting places for the less fortunate to access high speed internet. 

Of course, all this pontificating doesn't take into account how consumers and the government react to any detrimental shifts.  We can be sure that new disruptive technologies will also emerge to quickly change the landscape, from new ideas to reduce file loads to new entrants in the ISP space and new technologies that make the current internet look like a dinosaur.  The media landscape continues to evolve at a faster and faster pace and no doubt, the end of net neutrality may simply be the opportunity for new doors to open. 

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