This shocked me, it really did. Here’s a quote from Sen. Al Franken talking about some FCC regulations coming up:
Under the language of the draft Order as I understand it, it would be entirely acceptable for a mobile ISP to prioritize its own such such applications and either degrade competing applications, or, quite simply, block them outright. To use a hypothetical, under this framework, Verizon could initially allow iPad owners access to a streaming Netflix video application over their 3G or LTE network—but then block that same Netflix application the very day that V CAST, Verizon’s mobile video on-demand service, becomes available and offers competing content. In fact, they could have blocked the Netflix application the day they thought of offering V CAST on iPad.
First off I want to point out that this is a US Senator worrying about Netfilx availability. Yes, I know it was a hypothetical, but when a Senator is trying to make waves by trying to scare people over entertainment availability, it makes me wonder if there’s something a little more important he should be working on.
OK, with that out of the way, let’s assume Verizon does exactly what he imagines, what would happen? In Franken’s world, the evil Verizon corporation would have absolute control of streaming content, no one would have any options, and millions would surely die… In the real world, people that value Netflix would simply leave Verizon. If Verizon was the only game in town, then they would, horror of horrors, be stuck with VCAST. The upshot here is that if Netflix really is in hot demand by their customers, Verizon would do nothing but shoot themselves in the foot if they got rid of it. People would leave, and the others would hate Verizon. The ones that are stuck with Verizon would be a very tempting target for Verizon’s competitors… The same goes for any other content you can name. Verizon has to stay on its toes in order to stave off current and potential poaching of their customers.
In any case, there doesn’t need to be any law or regulation put into place to protect Verizon from itself. If people demand openness to the internet, ISPs will have to provide it if they want customers. Net neutrality will always exist, maybe not on every network, but it will always be available because it is desirable. Let companies offer whatever services they want and let the chips fall where they may…