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  • 27Jul

    Net Neutrality Debate in Washington

    From CNET

    The debate in Washington over Net neutrality–the fundamental principle that keeps the Internet open and free from discrimination–is coming to a head. That means that the wheeling and dealing is under way, and consumers need to watch out.

    There are currently closed-door meetings taking place between phone and cable behemoths, and the biggest Internet companies, to craft a “compromise” deal that could carve up the Internet for them and leave consumers and smaller competitors behind. If the fix is in, it won’t be long before they launch a PR campaign presenting this scheme as some kind of middle ground far from the “radical fringe.” But buyer beware: This could be fake Net neutrality.
    Real Net neutrality is when phone and cable companies cannot pick winners and losers on the Internet. Real Net neutrality is when new innovators with good ideas have an equal chance at competing against Google and Yahoo because they don’t have to pay ISPs for preferential treatment.

    But what’s being floated in Washington, dubbed “paid prioritization,” is fake Net neutrality. And a slightly more sanitized version of this known as “managed services” could secure today’s online giants a spot in the fast lane, while everyone else is left fighting over the scraps.

    What’s in it for the big guys? If they can’t kill Net neutrality outright, the dominant phone and cable companies like AT&T and Comcast still want to be able to favor their own video, voice, and text content, protecting themselves from the forces of competition and reducing their need to make investments in capacity expansions.

    But an online giant like Amazon.com or Google might be persuaded to go along because it can afford priority treatment for its content at the expense of any future start-up competitors.

    This fake Net neutrality will be a huge loss for consumers and online entrepreneurs, who will have to stand by and watch as these industry giants turn the vibrant marketplace that is the open Internet into something that looks more like cable TV, where consumers face high prices and few choices.

    The beauty of the open Internet is any user’s unfettered access to the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas found online. While everyone pays for access, no one is forced to pay for the privilege of reaching a particular broadband access provider’s subscribers. But the carriers want to change this by introducing “paid prioritization.”

    When companies choose to pay for not just access to the Internet, but for the right to give their content priority over their competitors, it tilts the playing field online against entrepreneurs and consumers, and towards the companies that can afford to buy market power.

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