Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Premium Channels

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 3-0 that the FCC has no legal authority to enforce net neutrality on broadband providers. Providers could, for example, charge extra for larger files, or restrict access to sites that provide content they don't approve of, or--- as Comcast has already done--- sent forged packets to their own customers to terminate peer-to-peer sessions.

Comcast has said it has changed its policies in this and other regard, and now supports net neutrality . . . especially now that they need the FCC's permission to buy NBC. (My god, a more disastrous owner for NBC than GE! Just imagine!) The Court of Appeals decision, for example, would allow Comcast to give you NBC for free, while charging extra for any network they didn't happen to own.

This also means that broadband networks no longer have any reason to spend money to increase their bandwidth--- not when they can just charge you extra for putting a strain on the crappy network they're giving you now! (AT&T, I'm talkin' to YOU!)

Without network neutrality, the Internet--- which is currently my chief source of news and information--- becomes yet another conduit for the views of the billionaires that own it, just like every other damn network.

Now there's a school of thought that says that the FCC has no business regulating the Internet. I have a certain sympathy for this point of view, as I'd rather the Internet remain the Wild West cow town that it is now. But if there's only one road out of the cow town, and the mustache-twirling bad guy who owns the road is allowed to charge some people enormous fares while letting his friends ride free, then I say there needs to be a new sheriff in town.

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1 Comments:

Blogger john_appel said...

In normal circumstances I'd like this to go to the Supreme Court, but the Roberts Court seems so divorced from understanding the issues involved I fear they'd rule for Comcast also.

That said, there case for tiered pricing isn't entirely without merit. I see the same issue you do, though, in that under the current delivery model, the incentive structure to actually improve the service doesn't exist. It's also problematic that in many areas, a single commercial entity has an effective monopoly on providing broadband access.

11:12 AM  

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