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Positive or Negative on Net Neutrality?

Net NeutralityIf the words “Net Neutrality” mean anything to you and you’ve been paying attention, you know that the FCC just voted to lift the Net Neutrality ruling established in 2015.  For outsiders, this may look like partisan politics as usual, with the FCC’s 3 Republicans voting to repeal the ruling and 2 Democrats voting to leave the ruling in place.  A closer look, however, may show some different nuances to where people land, depending on where they fit into the big picture.

Fundamentally, Net Neutrality is rooted in the idea that some people want all content (voice and data) transported via the Internet to be treated equally, regardless of what the content is, who the provider is, or who the end user is.  Those who oppose Net Neutrality believe that some of the content transported via the Internet should be prioritized, and that it is acceptable for end users and/or content providers to pay a premium for that prioritization.  Advocates of Net Neutrality will also point out that allowing prioritization also enables potentially unethical business practices in the form of DE-prioritization, but I’m going to leave that piece of it alone and let the FTC make sure everyone “plays nice”.

There are plenty of exceptions (and lots of nuance), but in a broad sense, how you feel about Net Neutrality is likely to depend on who you are and what’s important to you.  Here’s a breakdown as I see it:

Transport Providers – We’ll start here, as these are the most directly affected by Net Neutrality rules.  As a rule, most transport providers are opposed to Net Neutrality because if forces them to commoditize their product into “big, dumb pipes”.  Without the ability to prioritize traffic (and charge for it), the only way transport providers can make more money is to make BIGGER dumb pipes, so Net Neutrality can tend to stifle innovation in transport.

Content Providers – Content providers tend to favor Net Neutrality rules, since EVERYONE thinks their own content is very important and nobody wants to think their content is being put in a “slow lane”.  There’s an opinion (not unreasonably held) that even a slight delay, experienced consistently, will send impatient end users flocking to other content providers.  Small and/or startup content providers in particular are concerned that a) perceived slowness will hurt their chances of getting a foothold in the market, and b) they won’t be able to compete with the deep pockets that enable more established providers to pay for a “fast lane” experience for their users.

End Users – End users probably split along the lines of personal vs business use.  Personal users favor Net Neutrality because they like the commodity pricing of residential Internet access and don’t want to pay business rates to get higher prioritization, but they still don’t want their streaming movies and high-bandwidth real-time gaming content to take a backseat to business content.  Low-end business users who can’t afford to pay to prioritize their important content probably fall into this camp as well.  High-end business users, on the other hand, are more likely to embrace the idea of a content “fast lane” because they hate the idea that their latency-sensitive and critical business content are no more important than videos of cats, and are willing to pay to have it prioritized.

 

If you have any questions about how Net Neutrality will affect you, your company or your customers, please let me know.  Advocate is here to help you to stay on top of this.

 

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