Of all the arguments for net neutrality, the following is the most prevalent in the blog/news community today: as stated in an article on NYtimes.com, “If given free rein, these gatekeepers could determine which services get to drive through the pipes that make up the Internet at what speeds and prices.” This fear of giving these “gatekeepers” what appears to be full control of the internet is a scary thought; the fact that the fate of the entire internet world rest in the hands of only a few ISP giants, to give up full control without anyone to regulate what they’re doing and who they’re doing it to, to give up so much power in what is probably the greatest invention in human history to a bunch of money hungry, self-interested business men, is something most people aren’t completely comfortable with; I get it. I must say, however, there is one question no one has bothered to ask. If and when these dominant ISPs assume control of of any and all internet traffic—and for purposes of this argument I’m just going to say they will—are they really going to limit the speeds of the people that can’t afford to pay, and are they really going to start to censor and filter information on the internet away from those that have every right view that information? The diehard advocate for net neutrality most assuredly would agree, literally jumping at this question to proclaim, “Of course they are! Why else do they intend on putting speed limits on particular sites and businesses?” But before we dive into this topic of whether or not ISPs are going to commit to some sort of Nazi-esque ruling of the digital world, I would like to bring your attention to two of the most logical motives of why these ISP giants would like the control of the internet for themselves; and these are the reasons that all net neutrality advocates are concerned about:
1. Money $$$$$
2. Poltical Agenda
I’m going to start with number two, because it is the most easy to dismiss. Starting with no, ISPs have no political agenda. Find me a legitimate article of how ISPs are making any kind of remote attempt to rule the world, or perhaps even hold some kind of discrimination towards any particular group or community of people on the internet? Seriously, I’m going to wait here for someone to show me something by a legitimate and well-respected source in the industry so we can continue…
Without a political agenda, ISPs have no motive to block any content on their networks. Although Comcast did induce a legal battle when caught interfering with the network speeds of BitTorrent users, it was a course of action that was far from political, and since then, both parties have recently set aside their differences by working together “to effectively manage traffic at peak times.” ISPs are a business like any other whose interest is motivated by means of acquiring money, a topic which brings me back to my previous point.
The question we should all be asking ourselves is: are they truly going to limit the speeds of the people that can’t pay? The answer is a resounding yes! And it’s actually a business model that makes perfect sense. Now before you get all bent over backwards about how it’s unfair to the little man or how it’s business malpractice. You have to understand that small businesses don’t need that kind of bandwidth to maintain their website, so it doesn’t matter one bit that they don’t get that “express lane” all the other big businesses will probably be getting, because they won’t be utilizing it. In the world of internet business, the amount of profit you make is directly correlated to the amount of traffic you get. It is the same reason why spamming websites exist, and the same reason why Youtube is paying people to make viral videos since the amount of views your page receives consistently represents your ever-growing internet presence, which translates to more money $$$$$. Needless to say, popularity pays on the internet. But you know who’s not popular? Small businesses or start-ups. What’s the point of opening extra lanes on the road when you don’t even have enough traffic to fill the already existing roads to your website? In essence, the little man is not going to be affected by the absence of net neutrality, because the same service they’ve been getting for well over a decade will still be there. Now if ISPs begin to charge them for this service that everyone should receive by default, then that’s a problem. But they’re not going to because they’re going after the big money, namely, as of this moment, one of the hottest players on the internet, the one setting fire to much of the net neutrality debate, Netflix.
In the eyes of an ISP, the online film revolution of Netflix is a growing problem for them, because Netflix is the main source of their bandwidth woes. ISPs are investing money into their infrastructure to create larger, faster, and more open roads on the internet with the intentions of giving all their customers more freedom only to realize that Netflix seem to be hogging up one-third of it. Out of all the companies that run business online, if anyone should pay extra fees for bandwidth usage, it should be Netflix. Netflix’s customer base has grown an astronomical amount in the past 3 years; they can afford to pay the cost. The implementation of a multi-tiered system for quality internet service is the exact same concept for the customers they charge at home for personal use. If you feel like you don’t need to use or can’t afford an ISPs more expensive plan, you don’t have to pay for the higher quality service, you can choose not to. That is a fine business model, and there’s nothing unethical about it. In fact, it is more than ethical; it is fair.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a business man, nor do I work for an ISP, nor am I a journalist that has the inside track to any news on the intents and purposes of what the major ISPs truly intend to do once they’ve been given the green light to manipulate all traffic across the internet. But I’m going to wager that ISPs are not going to go vigilante on people by haphazardly charging at whatever rate they see fit without any reason to do so. No, I believe in something a little more reasonable. They want to control the network and charge businesses more fees to those that can afford it, so they can build larger and faster networks in the future in hopes that even more businesses will grow large enough to take advantage of the increased bandwidth, then they can charge more businesses these fees in which they can also afford. Sure, it’s always about the money, but that doesn’t mean ISPs are evil by simply trying to take advantage of everyone for their own benefit and amusement. Yes, they’re making much more money than everyone else; but at least the internet will be a bigger and better place, because of what they’re trying to grow in the process.