It seems that the internet is abuzz with the possibility that Congress will end the Net Neutrality principle, which is the goose that laid the golden IP packet. Net Neutrality is the foundational idea that all parts of the internet should treat all packet traffic the same, regardless of its origin, function, or destination: all packets are created equal, if you will. But now Congress wants to let carriers charge premiums to content providers for preferred access from their service’s subscribers. The result would be the ghettoization of internet content and a legally-created rent to high-speed service providers at the expense of everyone, and at the cost of the basic premises of the internet.
Telecoms and cable providers, who provide the vast bulk of high-speed access in this country due to the poor regulatory environment created by the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, want to extract more wealth from their oligopolic market positions. One of the reasons that the internet has been such a mighty engine of creative destruction for American business is that it radically lowers the cost of market entry to new and innovative business models. Because of Net Neutrality, new ideas can start small with very little investment and grow into major business (take EBay as one more famous example) with almost no resistance to market entry and a very low cost of acquiring new customers. The high-speed carriers and their Republican lap dogs want to rip a hunk off that action to line their own pockets, nevermind that it will impair the efficiency and creativity of American business.
GOP=Pro-Business? Don’t you believe it. GOP=Entrenched Money Trying To Control Markets And Extract Ever Larger Rents Through Political Influence? Now you get it.
Under the new regulations with which Republicans and the high-speed oligopoly want to saddle the internet, a growing business would have to pay additional fees, or make one-sided deals with the oligopolists, in order to be able to get visitors to their online properties efficiently and quickly. This isn’t just about making more investments in installion of more bandwith, or more servers, this is about the oligopolists having the legal authority to withhold quality access for their subscribers from the online properties of a new business until their terms are met. They want the power to use their subscribers as hostages in a shakedown of online business.
‘Net Neutrality’ is what we geeks call this issue; but for the purpose of this fight against the GOP’s love of bad ideas, we ought to name the issue in the common parlance: ‘Extortion’.