Net neutrality – now

Net neutrality has been an issue on virtually everyone’s lips these days, and with good reason. Conflict has broken out between Netflix and Comcast, and in the past few days spiraled out of control into an all out rejection of the Federal Communication Commission’s decisions and arguably contention even within the FCC. I honestly think one of the best descriptions of this was the one offered up by Vi, a popular YouTuber vlogger, who explained earlier today:

Her video lays out two major distinctions between companies and how that can (or does) impact their perspectives on this issue. Net neutrality as an issue innately divides between companies that host content and those that provide access to it. The former are ostensibly interested in maximizing the number of people who look at their content, both because of the pride that comes from creating a popular site but also because they materially benefit from having as many eyeballs as possible look at their site (because that’s how ad revenue is frequently calculated). Companies that provide access to that content, however, have a different business model, centered on driving up revenues through creating reasons to charge more for access than before… say, creating a unique fast lane for some content providers or customers.

Vi hints at a distinction among companies that host sites and content, however, in terms of how the on-going drive to dismantle internet neutrality affects different companies. In the short term, the companies most at risk of fee hikes are actually the most powerful – like Netflix, and a growing other number of sites, like Google and Amazon. Those are the companies that could afford to pay for the privileged delivery of their sites’ content are now under fire to actually do that. Smaller sites are actually not the ones in immediate danger (they only will be once a fast lane becomes established and they fall between the cracks). That said, torrenting sites and other marginal sites are already deprioritized by internet access providers under legal reasons. Likewise, the future deprioritization of smaller sites that are unable to pay extra appears likely to eventually marginalize them as well.

In short, we need to stave off this attempt to create of a pay scale for sites that determines the speed that their content will be delivered at. The current market is shaped by the (inconsistent) net neutrality we have currently, which means that almost all hosting sites both large and small are invested in a particular business model (built on attracting as many viewers as possible). If sites that can pay for greater security in how they deliver content become invested in that, the resources they could use to oppose such a system will get tied up in keeping their sites afloat. The current system unites companies that host content against internet providers. If we lose this current fight, that will no longer be true.

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