DTNS 2220 – Net-reversality

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comPatrick Beja is on the show and we’ll talk about the FCC’s proposed Open Internet rules. Are they good, bad or irrelevant? How worried should you be?

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Show Notes

Today’s guest: Patrick Beja! And we all rejoice! 

Headlines

Rules of engagement: The FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler posted on the FCC website that a draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will circulate today to the commission. The notice will be discussed at a meeting May 15th, then opened for public comment. The notice tries to re-craft Open Internet guidelines after being struck down in court. It preserves the transparency requirement and prohibition against blocking. However, it changes the non-discrimination rules from reasonable to “commercially reasonable” opening the way for paid prioritization of traffic to ISP customers. 

Continue reading DTNS 2220 – Net-reversality

The FCC puts the Internet on life support

The magic of the Internet has been that anybody with the skills can make a service that looks and works just as well as a large company.

Are you a good writer? Your blog can compete with the New York Times because the platform is the same. Good at video? You can deliver it to a worldwide audience right alongside Hollywood. Talent and promotional acumen become more critical deciding factors than wealth.

What the FCC seems to be considering would change that. New entrants to a market would face a cost barrier. A Netflix or a YouTube will be fine, because they can’t be outright blocked under this proposal and they can afford to pay for the smooth access their product needs.

This is a solution designed to make sure big businesses get a fair break. Not you.

A new video company that wants to compete with Netflix? Now they need to gather even more venture capital. The cost of innovation gets higher, meaning fewer attempts at innovation, meaning a greater trend towards oligopoly and a resulting stagnation.

The FCC seems to be constructing their approach to look for immediate harm, which they will not find. You can’t prove that a company that never entered the market because it was too expensive was harmed. This is insidiously dangerous whether it is intentional or not.

This isn’t about “neutrality” or packet prioritization or even peering. Small innovators don’t start out big enough to need peering agreements like Netflix does. When they get that big, they can afford to negotiate them, like Netflix is.

However what seems to be on the table is allowing ISPs to charge for traffic coming to the individual consumer as well as charging that consumer to access it. That would be fine if customers could make a choice. If a competing ISP could market themselves as an open Internet provider where ALL sites perform well not just the big ones. Since we do not have ISP competition in the US, that won’t happen. ISPs can do what they want, with no market recourse for the consumer.

And that’s what gives the lie to Chairman Wheeler’s statement.

He writes, “The Notice does not change the underlying goals of transparency.” However transparency is almost useless when you have no choice of provider.

He also writes, “behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted.” That seems to be aimed at content providers, but wouldn’t it be great if that applied to ISPs? Except there is almost no competition on the ISP level, which hurts consumers and the FCC does nothing about that fundamental root problem.

This entire procedure of developing Open Internet Guidelines seems to be a practice in misdirection. Rather than treat the problem, lack of ISP choice, the commission, and the public are arguing over the symptoms.

If the Internet was a patient and the FCC its doctor, that doctor would seem to be saying, “We will not allow this nose to get unreasonably runny and we will let you know every symptom of the illness. But we won’t worry about trying to cure the disease. No lobbyist has paid for that.”