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Net Neutrality: “What we have here is a failure to communicate”

April 5, 2006 - 0 Comments

In a column on Net Neutrality in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the editorialist states: “Here’s the problem: Let’s say pays extra fees to have its site load faster on people’s browsers. And let’s say a smaller online bookstore can’t afford the fees and thus its site loads more slowly. Assuming book prices at both sites are comparable, which one will get more business over the long haul? Most likely, the one with better performance — in this case, Amazon. The smaller upstart can’t compete.”Read the full SFChronicle story here.This, the author says, is the crux of the argument about why network operators shouldn’t be allowed to charge for their services like, say, the mobile phone operators charge for their services…or, dare I say, how Amazon charges for its services. Let me ‘splain.I’m a fairly loyal Amazon customer. I like the convenience of having stuff shipped directly…either to me, or, more often, as gifts. When I check out of Amazon I’m given the option of several different levels of shipping. If I want something sent quickly, then I can pay more. If I pay a certain amount for whatever I’ve bought I can even get free shipping…albeit at a slower pace. This is exactly the same thing service providers are looking for…i.e. you want content…you get it. You want to pay more to get bigger, fatter content, then you might have to pay more, just as if you want more mobile, anytime minutes, you pay more. Service is not going to be denigrated. If you pay for 1MB of broadband, you will be able to access any site and surf to your heart’s content – easily, I might add, surfing Amazon and any future competitor of theirs with that 1MB of downloading speed.If Amazon, however, starts pushing content out that is in excess of 1MB then users will have more trouble accessing it unless they upgrade their service to a higher bandwidth…OR if Amazon decides to pay service providers to let any user access their site even if the consumer’s broadband subscription only pays for 1MB. Let me add, however, that the standard measurement for U.S. broadband as defined by the FCC is 256Kbps, so if you are gettiing 1MB then you are nearly FOUR TIMES the speed of a standard broadband connection and should be able to access any site. While I think 256Kbps is embarassingly low and while other countries have measurements up to 100Mbps, this is another conversation.As video and bandwidth rich sites become more the norm, you will surely see bandwidth increases for consumers, but prior to that, service providers are just looking to give consumers the option of “shipping” more bandwidth quicker, just as Amazon gives their users the option of shipping books, etc. quicker.

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