Thursday, January 23, 2014

Net Neutrality "defeat" in Appeals Court could lead to telecomms sacking small businesses altogether, but would this really happen?

Content companies and consumers may have very mixed experiences if the DC Appeals Court’s ruling turning down the FCC on Network Neutrality stands up.

Let's consider just one big corporate telecomm "user" first, Netflix.  
John Sinai explains in USA Today Money, “Why Netflix won’t be the next tele-flop”, here.  Netflix had negotiated its content deals with regular distributors a long time ago, and (like Google’s YouTube) has been quite permissive in letting very independent and tiny filmmakers present their work for sale.  Amazon has started competing more on the streaming side, and now the big telecomm companies like Verizon will enter the content market, but I think they may be less likely to offer very obscure or small-fry content. 
Brian Fung writes on the Washington Post Switch Blog that Netflix is trying to encourage its subscribers to pressure both the telecomm companies and the politicians, link here    Netflix originally benefited from the “neutral” environment.
The Huffington Post, on January 17, 2014, offered a preview of what the future without network neutrality might look like, with colorful illustrations, here  in an article by Betsy Isaacson.  Major companies would get together and offer bundling so their sites would stay within the data limit. 
The article speculates that small business sites could be hurt really badly by such a development.  Maybe they would have to pay to get into a bundle, or maybe they would load slow, or count outside data limits.  It’s speculative how this could affect self-publishing.  I would presume that Google (including YouTube) would be bundled, so maybe so would Blogger;  maybe other popular platforms like Wordpress would.  Obviously big social media companies like Facebook would deal. Would shared hosting companies be able to get their customers bundled?  Maybe then things would be OK.
The Young Turks have a video “Not Neutrality” that articulates a similar view, raising the specter of conflict of interest if a telecomm provider doesn’t like what a particular site says about it. 
There are more complications to the ruling, under the so-called Section 706, which could bring some of the net neutrality back in practice.  Right now, the legal arguments are too arcane and complicated to cover right here.  The “Investors” link is here
There is real disagreement as to whether cable companies will try to set up “fast lanes” quickly while the FCC mulls its options under 706.  I haven’t noticed any changes in my own world yet. 

Stay tuned on this one. 

Update: Jan. 24

ABC is requiring users to sign on with their cable or telecomm provider to watch its content episodes.  It's a bit slow at first.  Once it's set up it's OK, but your cable plan probably now has to include it.  It seems like my Xfinity plan works as is.  It's much more convenient to watch episodes from the Internet than to have to remember to record them.  I first used it for "Revenge".

But is this a symptom of the end of "net neutrality"?  So far, it's harmless.  

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