Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump names network neutrality foe to head FCC, but it's much less clear how important this really will be

Donald Trump has named a “network neutrality foe” Ajit Pai to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Timothy B. Lee has a detailed article on the possible significance of his appointment on Vox here.     He also refers to a speech given by Pai to the FCC in December 2016 here.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Have telecommunications companies ever charged new content providers with the right to be “hooked up” to their Internet services and be found?  I’ve never heard of that.  Brain Fung had mentioned the idea last fall in the Washington Post.  Lee mentions that when Facebook got started, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have to worry about this, but Zuckerberg got Facebook started long before there was meaningful network neutrality regulation anyway. Lee also says that it could take over a year for the undoing of Net Neutrality to occur, and that litigation would follow.  (Private contract agreements also come into play.)

It does sound logical that telecom companies could be concerned about very high volume sites (and these might include porn sites), that could mean the need for more servers or hardware or routers in various locations.

Theoretically, if telecom companies started behaving this way when allowed to, small business people or bloggers could not longer have their own public domains, as we have become accustomed.

 They could use free services like Blogger or Automattic Wordpress, at the whim of being pulled at any time.  And I’m not sure that the business model for these free services is sustainable forever, especially in a Trump climate with new concerns about hidden national security threats (and with Trump’s dislike of “computers” as not “safe”).

Perhaps, though, shared hosting companies (like Bluehost, Godaddy) would take care of the hookup access, but would have to pass the costs along to website owners.  Setting up new domains (except for popular names people want) has been very cheap.

On the other hand, a Comcast or a Verizon has every “free market” reason to offer consumers access to everything lawful and accessible by normal Internet protocols, because consumer should expect it.
I don’t think that allowing a Netflix to have a “fast lane” (rather like an EZPass toll lane)  for consumer convenience (when consumers will pay more for premium speed service)  or to a faster streaming service that a telecom company owns, though should logically need to compromise consumer access to normal “small’ websites (like mine, for example).

Net neutrality rules could have some impact on other services that consumers want to use for protecting kids or for limiting liability from guest use (like OpenDNS or guest hotspots).

Update:  CNN has a story this evening by Seth Fiergerman.

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