Newly anointed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week that it would be OK for Internet service providers to charge Netflix and other companies for a faster lane to consumers.
Wheeler’s stance is surprising given that it appears to contradict the FCC’s Open Internet Order, passed under his predecessor in 2010. That order, which sets out the country’s network neutrality rules, says that fixed broadband providers may not “unreasonably discriminate” against any type of traffic. The order specifically calls out pay-for-play arrangements as being potential violations.
Wheeler (a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries) spoke positively about the order but said he wouldn’t mind if Netflix has to pay for a faster lane to consumers while answering questions Monday after a policy speech at Ohio State University.
"I am a firm believer in the market," he said. “I think we’re also going to see a two-sided market where Netflix might say, ‘well, I’ll pay in order to make sure that you might receive, my subscriber receives, the best possible transmission of this movie.’"
This is horseshit. The level playing field of the internet is what makes it such a powerful place for new, disruptive ideas. I shared Humans vs. Zombies and Cards Against Humanity online when I was flat broke, and I was able to do that because I didn’t have to ask for permission or pay anything extra to make those things available. The same is true of Tumblr, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Kickstarter, and just about every other internet company that you love and use.
Edit: Spytap adds,
Without any element of hyperbole, if “former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry” Tom Wheeler gets his wish, it’s the end of the internet as a medium for societal and commercial transformation. There is no more efficient way to kill every single iota of progress and momentum that’s built up over the past 25 years than by creating preferential lanes on the internet.
It. Will. Die.
And anyone willing to be so mindbogglingly shortsighted over what can be counted amongst the greatest inventions of mankind has no business wielding any sort of authority over its subsequent evolution.
Edit II: pugilispretentia writes,
I cannot imagine Netflix being faster than it is.
This isn’t about Netflix paying ISPs for a faster connection than they already have. It’s about the ISPs being able to charge Netflix to stream at the same speed they do now, i.e. “pay us or we’ll slow your website down.” Do you see how much harder that would make it to ever start a site like Netflix? That’s what’s at stake when we talk about net neutrality.