Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Creeping Death Of Net Neutrality

The House of Representatives seems determined to do away with net neutrality, and a vote taken last night moves this one step closer as they passed a "resolution of disapproval" that would strip the FCC of its ability to protect Internet users.

It's quite ironic that the lower house is where the interest of ordinary people if often best served has been hijacked by big media, and it's more ironic that they seem to be doing this in favour of 'the open marketplace' (a concept that has worked so well recently in areas such as financial services and arms trading).

But net neutrality is teetering. Players like Google, who are effectively the revenue gateway to the internet for most small publishers, have hijacked the concept and used it to heavily subsidise their services. At the same time, they, and the ISPs on the other side of the issue, are doing very little about the rampant piracy that their services are commercially supporting and disseminating.

The real threat to net neutrality will come when rights owners wake up and realise that they have lost most of their revenues, and that the only way back is to make future releases only available under highly regulated conditions.

At the same time, network providers want to offer quality of service packages (they already provide a quasi version of this by offering different bandwidth packages).

As more television screens become web enabled consumers will be demanding higher quality images, so there will also be demand in the marketplace for tiered services.

This is a complex issue and it's difficult to know how quickly it will play out, but I suspect net neutrality will begin to crumble sooner rather than later.