Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Court Enables ISPs To Run HOV Lanes

In what has been described as a blow to net neutrality, the US Court has pushed aside FCC efforts to keep the internet stream open and equal to all.  Instead, they are allowed to operate HOV lanes and charge premium pricing for access.  That means that broadband providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and others can pursue deals with high usage content distributors like Netflix, Amazon and others for faster streams at higher prices.  In addition, "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Tuesday that the FCC did not have the authority to prohibit broadband and mobile service providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic and applications."

For companies willing to pay it means more costs to distribute and for broadband providers, it means a new revenue stream.  And for the consumer, it ultimately means higher costs for content and some difficulty in getting content from outlier platforms.  If Netflix needs to pay more for distribution, they need to charge consumers a higher subscription fee to recoup those losses.  Consumers will find content that didn't pay for HOV access slowed down in getting their streams to our respective devices. 

Why did the courts rule this way?  It is because they do not see the web as a utility like gas, electric, or water.  It is not a basic right regardless of how pervasive it has become for communication purposes.  And the laws of our free economy best operate under supply and demand.  As long as it does not operate under monopolistic conditions, government shouldn't interfere.  And like a free economy, the rules of disruptive technology should also apply.  Technological innovation to improve streaming, deliver alternative solutions, and improve our lives.  By not setting net neutrality rules, the US Court may just be inviting new broadband opportunities to emerge. 

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