Charging me twice, and asking for more


I know I’ve been harping on the Net Neutrality thing pretty hard lately, but this is an issue that will have huge impacts that we can�t foresee, for years to come. Over at Slashdot, I saw that CNN has two op-eds regarding Net Neutrality, with differing viewpoints on the issue.

First is Mike McCurry, who writes of having content providers pay for �upgrades� to the Internet:

But regulations pushed by Amazon, Google, eBay and the other companies would essentially prohibit data transfer arrangements between high-speed access providers and big content companies. The inevitable results: Companies pay less for the Internet’s build-out, consumers pay more and progress slows on providing affordable broadband.

Now, not everyone out there operates a Web site, but if you do, you’ll understand why this argument doesn’t make sense: content providers already pay so their content will be accessible to Web users. Just the same way in which Web users already pay to access that content.

I pay a company a monthly fee to host this site, and there are limits to what I can and can’t do. Using a lot of bandwidth is a no-no which would cost me more money (this is a low-bandwidth site, so not a lot of worries). Still, the principle is intact — it costs me money each month just so you can read my blog and look at my pictures. My host doesn’t own the transmission cables: the telecom companies do. So, my host has to pay for the bandwidth my site uses.

At the same time, I pay a monthly fee for DSL access. I’m sure many of you reading this blog do the same. You see where McCurry’s argument fails then? They don’t need help from content providers to “upgrade” anything, because the providers are already paying them! Telecom companies want to maximize their profits for what happens online.

I used a simple analogy last time, but let’s look at another from Craigslist founder Craig Newmar (who wrote the second CNN op-ed):

Here’s a real world example that shows how this would work. Let’s say you call Joe’s Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you’ll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. That’s not fair, right? You called Joe’s and want some Joe’s pizza. Well, that’s how some telecommunications executives want the Internet to operate, with some Web sites easier to access than others. For them, this would be a money-making regime.

I’m already giving money to telecom companies twice each month: once so I can put my writing and photography out there, and again so I can access the Web sites I like to see. Still, they want me to pony up more cash to ensure that my content is readily accessible, and doesn’t take forever to load on your screen.

Finally, let’s get back to McCurry’s piece:

Regulating Internet neutrality may a (sic) great idea in Amazon’s corporate boardroom. But for ordinary consumers, it’s a sure ticket to higher prices and fewer choices.

He’s arguing for consumers, but we’re the ones getting screwed. If Net Neutrality goes away, and your ISP brokers some “data transfer arrangements” with content providers, you still have no choice in the matter! Yeah, you’ll be paying for a cheaper connection (or so McCurry argues) but you�ll have no control over which Web sites your ISP will let you see. Your ISP won’t make all the content providers pay for the “upgrades” (which would at least be fair) — just the ones that your ISP feels will bring in the most cash. How does that increase your choices?

Preserving Net Neutrality is a good thing. Do your part, and write or call Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici today. This fight is now headed to the Senate, so get on the phone. For more ways to help, visit, or click the link on the right side of this site.

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