Remember the new network neutrality framework FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler promised to come up with? Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, those rules will make their grand entrance in three weeks, but of course they’ve ‘leaked’. If accurate, I’m not sure calling them ‘net neutrality’ rules fits anymore.
The FCC will apparently endorse preferential treatment by ISPs for content providers who pay up. Yep, fast lanes with toll booths here we come. I have a feeling the net neutrality side of the fence is going to be a tad peeved tomorrow, while service providers express cautious optimism publicly and celebrate privately.
There’s still the caveats that ISPs can’t actually block anything while preferential treatment would have to be available on “commercially reasonable” terms whose appropriateness would be decided on a case by case basis. But defining such terms is what lobbyists are for, right? I hope the actual order is a bit more specific, as these bars appear to be not just low but covered with nerf foam.
Now the question the industry and its regulators have to answer is this: How do you get the big content providers to pay for preferential treatment without stifling the small content providers of tomorrow who can’t pay for it yet? In other words, under this paradigm why would anyone even try to create the next Netflix or Facebook? Long before they have the scale to do it, their model can be copied by a big content player that already has the scale to pay up and do it better. The real risk is not to the likes of Google or Apple or even Netflix here. The big guys can take care of themselves, and actually these rules could help them insulate themselves from future competition. It’s the little guys with a website or an app and a dream that have no voice in all this.
Helmets & goggles on, this could get messy. I don’t think anyone quite comprehends just how complicated this will get or how fast.
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