I keep coming back to this topic because I am a little worried about the misunderstandings people have with how markets work. There are companies that want to start charging for better connections and possibly exclusive content. They feel that they need to deviate from the IP standards that exist today to do that. They want to be able to discriminate between types of data so that they can offer low latency, high bandwidth connections for people that want them.
Net neutrality supporters claim that this will violate the so called “1st amendment of the internet.” This is the idea that all content is equal, that everyone has full access to all content out there. There has been some major league FUD spread on this concept, net neutrality supporters paint the picture of a fractured internet where certain content will be favored and that some sites will not be accessible at all. If you think about how this 1st amendment feature came about, you can see that there’s no reason to worry.
I’m sure that the ISPs would love to be able to do what people fear. They would love to lock you into their preferred content providers, raise their rates, and block sites and domains that they don’t like. To my knowledge there isn’t any legal block to doing this right now. Here’s the thing, as much as they might like to do this, they can’t. It’s not that they aren’t capable of raising rates, blocking content, and denying access to domains that they don’t like, after all there are many countries that do this to their citizens right now. China is the highest profile example of this. Companies in this country are not able to do any of this because of the competition for our dollars. Can you imagine if Cox was known to block content? Verison would gain an incredible number of new customers. I believe that AOL has learned this the hard way. Didn’t they start out blocking many sites that they thought were objectionable? If I’m not mistaken, they have had to liberalize considerably in order to stem the mass exodus from their service. They also tried to go the exclusive content route and found that most people preferred the regular internet instead. The only force that can get away with content blocking is the government.
So the fact that ISPs have not raised their rates or blocked content yet is a pretty strong argument that they will not in the future as long as competition is strong. The 1st amendment of the internet was never legislated before, and yet it occurred, How? By allowing the market to sort it out on its own. Government legislation to “guarantee” it is not only not necessary, it is dangerous. We do not want to open the door to the government being able to legislate what the internet “ought” to be. That isn’t up to them, it should be in the hands of all the people that use it and pay for it