The Washington Post reported today that the Deptartment of Justice has decided it is okay for internet service providers to charge a premium for priority web traffic. I wrote about the issue of “Net neutrality” back in March and my thinking still hasn’t changed on the issue — ISP’s being able to charge content providers for the right to reach consumers at high speeds (read: rich user-experience)  is terrible for internet innovation as a whole. I’m tired of the stranglehold network providers have on their respective industries — consumers shouldn’t have their hand forced regarding what search engine to use or which online video site to watch based upon which content providers are willing to pay ISP’s for high-speed internet broadband capabilities.

Here’s the DOJ’s official comments on the issue. I think the following argument by the DOJ is absolutely ridiculous –

The Department also noted that differentiating service levels and pricing is a common and often efficient way of allocating scarce resources and satisfying consumer demand. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, allows consumers to send packages with a variety of different delivery guarantees and speeds, from bulk mail to overnight delivery. These differentiated services respond to market demand and expand consumer choice.

There is a huge difference between the post office and the internet. The content received in the mail is the EXACT same no matter how long it takes to reach your front door — whether that be overnight, 3-day, 7-day, or over a month (it took 4 weeks for postcards I sent from Italy to arrive in Washington). However, the content available online via a T1 line versus a 56k dial-up modem is VASTLY different. An internet user is not going to be able to watch CNN video or listen to streaming audio on a slow modem, unless they are willing to wait 30 – 60 minutes to download a file. Remember what it was like to download a 1 megabyte file back in the 90’s? Click download, leave the computer for an hour or two, and then come back. Well, the DOJ’s decision potentially takes us back to the 90’s in terms of internet experience — varying speeds of internet broadband for different content providers is a huge step backward for internet innovation; it increases the barriers for new players building internet businesses. Much of the reason for the wealth of recent innovation over the last several years is that barriers to entry are low and broadband is fast (and was getting faster) — and I don’t believe we should be adding barriers back into the equation.

At this point, my hope is that one large provider will refuse to charge content providers for priority web traffic and the others are forced to follow.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see which internet companies pay for “priority web traffic.”

There are a stack of blogs who covered this issue today at Techmeme – so head there and check out some of the commentary if you want to read further.

Note: I’m tired and going to bed, so forgive me if all my thoughts aren’t totally thought out. 

  • You managed to hit about 20 nails in one whack. I am not sure anymore could be added to your complaint. It’s to bad more people didn’t take up the net-neu issue and call their congressman. People will never learn that it is harder to put a cat back in the bag once its out.