Net neutrality is officially a real topic again, I guess. Heck, it’s on the front page of the Wall Street Journal this AM so it must be important, right? Sorry for the cynicism first thing on Monday but after reading a rather lengthy report on the threat to net neutrality that is being spearheaded by Google I feel like I may have actually gotten up on the wrong side of the bed after all.
I’ll summarize. Google is doing some behind the scenes negotiating to create an internet fast lane that would give those who could pay for it a real advantage in content delivery*. The telcos love the idea because it replaces revenue that is being lost due to their antiquated land line systems and their unwillingness to change with the times.
Further, president elect Obama has taken a pretty consistent stance on net neutrality. Power to the people. However, Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, has been rumored as a possible CTO of sorts for the US. Does anyone see a disconnect here? In addition, there are many who are lined up for positions (like FCC chief honcho) that have apparently ‘softened’ their positions on net neutrality. Here’s an example from the article
But some of those who advise the new president on technology have changed their view on network neutrality. Stanford’s Mr. Lessig, for one, has softened his opposition to variable service tiers. At a conference, he argued that carriers won’t become kingmakers so long as the faster service at a higher price is available to anyone willing to pay it.
“There are good reasons to be able to prioritize traffic,” Mr. Lessig said later in an interview. “If everyone had to pay the same rates for postal service, than you wouldn’t be able to differentiate between sending a greeting card to your grandma versus sending an overnight letter to your lawyer.”
Add to this the fact that Microsoft and Yahoo! who had gone on virtual radio silence over the issue which they vigorously supported as recently as two years ago are now releasing statements like this one from Microsoft
Microsoft, which appealed to Congress to save network neutrality just two years ago, has changed its position completely. “Network neutrality is a policy avenue the company is no longer pursuing,” Microsoft said in a statement. The Redmond, Wash., software giant now favors legislation to allow network operators to offer different tiers of service to content companies.
Looks like this is an issue that could be a classic ‘about face’ now that the political waters have been stirred enough. My question is will the president elect protect the little guy (small business America) that will not have the wherewithal to pay for access to a content toll road? This one should be interesting to watch. Are there any Pilgrims with an opinion?