Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Does Wireless Need Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality has been a hot topic.  While the FCC attempts to revise its rules, many are still unclear what it all means.  In essence, net neutrality for the internet means that all web sites would have equal access to consumers accessing them, whether the data is light use email or heavy use video streaming.  Netflix, leading the way with heavy usage, has made deals with cable companies to assure that it gets premiere broadband access.  And while they can afford it, many argue that lack of net neutrality favors big business at the expense of start up web companies.

But as net neutrality rules are being reworked, you would be surprise to hear that these rules have been strictly toward wired broadband connections.  The mobile space has been mainly unregulated in the broadband space.  According to the NY Times, that exemption is being reviewed.  "On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission will hold a round-table discussion to examine whether proposed net neutrality rules should cover mobile broadband."  With so many consumers accessing the web through their cellular connections verse a WIFI one, it is hard to believe that the two platforms were being treated differently. 

Technological change as wireless carriers have upgraded their systems has led to such a move. And again, according to the NY Times, "Now, with advanced LTE networks complete, a growing portion of consumers use mobile as their primary method of connecting to the Internet, meaning a wireless exemption would leave those consumers without net neutrality protection."  And as younger consumers cut the cord on cable connections, their cellular subscription becomes their primary communication, information, and entertainment portal."  If my children didn't have access to WIFI inside the house, they would definitely be using their cellular connection.  In fact, I sometimes check that their smartphones are still connected to the WIFI so that our cell bill doesn't get impacted.

Does wireless need net neutrality?  All broadband, whether wireless or wired, should be treated similarly.  While I oppose to much government regulation and prefer an open economy to manage supply and demand, broadband has become as essential a basic right as shelter, food, and the right to education.  I would prefer that the FCC spend more time lowering the barrier to entry to enable more companies to compete in the broadband space.  The rise of competition is the best means to assure consumers right to choose a source for their broadband connection. 

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