I’ve haven’t had much to say about this. And I haven’t been paying much attention to the issue. After arguing with Budge over a fairly insignificant side argument about government impact on the Internet, I became a little more interested.
There are a couple issues here, for me. One is the effect on the sort of tiered pricing schemes people have been talking about will be. The other is that if necessary, can we regulate this effectively.
There’s possibly an issue 0 here, too. It’s hardly in the spirit of the Internet for telcos or ISPs to decide that Google should pay more than Yahoo! for faster service. The free exchange of information is one of the things that makes the Internet so great. And makes it not cable, too (among other things). It’s also not like there’s any basis for such a pricing scheme either. Companies like Amazon pay according to bandwidth. There’s no reason for one company to pay more than the other for the same services.
Anyway, onward. Effects? It seems like if we’re forcing smaller startups who can’t afford to pay for top tier service to the bottom of the barrel, we’re stifling innovation. This Reason article cites the possibility of stifling innovation we can’t forsee, but I’m going to weigh the paths I can see being stifled over the ones I can’t. Combined with the fact that very few smart people who know a lot about the Internet seem to be worried about that, I see effects as more negative than possibly positive. That said, I’m not entirely sure the effects are going to be that big of a deal. The Reason article makes this point:
Let’s assume that The New Republic’s worst fear of a fast-loading foxnews.com page comes true, even for those of us who prefer other, even more fair-and-balanced, less-comical news sources such as, say, The Onion. What are you likely to do in such a situation? Lump it or leave the company that delivers your broadband (as The Washington Post has reported, more than 60 percent of U.S. ZIP codes are served by four or more high-speed providers, a figure that will only continue to increase)? At the very least, you’ll bitch and moan to your provider, which is known to have some beneficial effects, even with near-monopolists. Remember what happened to the biggest ISP of them all, AOL, during its rise to dominance a decade or more ago? Originally a closed system, it had to allow its users to email with non-AOL customers, then it had to allow its customers full access to the Internet, then it had to go to flat-rate pricing, then it had to woo subscribers with ever-increasing free hours, giveaways, and the like. AOL still regularly upgrades its system and its services not because it wants to, but because it has to.
I’m not sure that’s a great argument, however. I think, though I could be wrong, many ISPs use other telcos’ pipes, leaving the choices available more restricted than they appear. Something about that sounds sketchy, but I’m sure someone can correct me if I’m wrong. The state of competition for companies involved in different phases of the Internet is not all that great, as far as I know, so it seems to me that we’re going to see more of an effect than what Gillespie thinks.
That said, is the effect all that bad? Companies probably won’t be denying you access to part of the Internet, nor will they probably charge you an arm and a leg to get to some obscure site. Then again, maybe they will.
The second issue is can we regulate this effectively. Given that 3/4 of Congress are certifiable morons, I don’t have a lot of hope for them to understand the distinction between prioritizing content type and discriminating against content source/ownership. This is the issue I need to think more about (and read the legislation in question, too).
That’s my two cents, anyway.