Maybe you should not be neutral about Net neutrality
A lot was made of the recent announcement by Time Warner
that it was going to implement a new pricing structure for its Internet service. Referred to as tiered (or metered) pricing, the stated intent is to charge on a usage basis -- that is, heavier users pay more than less frequent users.
According to American business and economic principles, this seems to make a lot of sense. So why the uproar?
Tiered pricing is a key argument in the bigger fight over Net neutrality. Net neutrality is an egalitarian belief that Internet users should be able to access and use services of their choice without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider.
As a result, Net neutrality proponents fear any type of tiered pricing. Not so much on the user side, but more so on the provider side. "Neutralists" fear is that user-based tiered pricing will lead to provider-side tiered pricing.
The fear is that carriers will charge content providers premium fees for plum placement and faster access. As a result, the Internet allegedly will be split into the "haves" versus the "have nots." It's akin to the more prosperous (as well as the carrier's own) services being accessed via H-3, while the less fortunate services are accessed via some combination of Kalihi Street and the Likelike and Kamehameha highways. Inevitably, neutralists fear, these less fortunate sites will not be able to compete.
Neutralists like to point out that many of the most popular Web sites today, like Google and eBay, started out with relatively little and were able to blossom because they were afforded equal access. Under a tiered pricing model, these folks would probably have fallen by the wayside, unable to pay the fees to use the H-3 and compete with their larger brethren, or those entities that had relationships with the carriers themselves.
Opponents of Net neutrality -- largely the high-speed Internet carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner, among others -- claim that Net neutrality is, well, a bunch of shibai. A "solution looking for a problem" is a phrase that's thrown around a lot. Opponents argue that government intervention is not a good thing, and, in fact, is a barrier to the innovative nature of the Internet.
Opponents further argue that a tiered model encourages large tech companies to contribute to upgrades and enhancements of the Internet. It would also force such organizations to look for other ways to improve their services, such as better software, rather than simply adding bandwidth.
What can you do? Legislation is being re-introduced in Congress, so let your folks on Capitol Hill know how you feel.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org