The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolling over on net neutrality could be a huge blow to the content industry.
For a while the FCC looked like it would stand up to the telcos and force them to be more reasonable on the issue of a two-tiered interent. The telcos saw forcing the content industry to pay more to use their cables as a good way to make a fast buck, even if it would effectively damage the internet structure. It paid its stooges in Washington to declaw any attempts by the FCC to regulate net neutrality.
When the FCC said that it was considering rules which would allow the comms companies to charge big content for “superior service” people moaned about the death of open communication, the rising costs of access, and perhaps, most importantly, how they would access streaming episodes of favourite programmes.
The comms companies shrugged and said that demand for streaming content has choked US networks, so they have to spread the cost of upgraded service to content providers like Netflix. This means, they claimed, that they could spend extra money on better connections.
Of course, the fact that they will not have to spend any more money on improving anything because they are getting more money from the heavy users of the tubes is unimportant.
But there is something more dangerous that the content industry might fear more. For the last few years, they have been winning the battle against piracy. In fact, it is easier and cheaper for people to buy and stream content than it has been to risk lawsuits with Big Content. Now the Telcoms companies have just made that streaming product less attractive by making it more expensive and the fear is that people will turn back to the P2P sites and piracy as a way to get their favourite shows.
If the issue is that if you are paying for content and the telephone companies are not providing it, then turning to piracy is the only logical thing to do. But ironically it means that the content companies are going to get a double dose of hurt.
However the feeling is that if consumers are the victims of the lack of net neutrality caused by corporate greed, then it is logical that they are going to get their own back. With the FCC taking the side of the corporates, there is no place else to go.
At issue is the question of whether the internet is now a human right, or a business to be controlled by the telecoms companies. Many have argued the US government should treat the internet as a public utility rather than an oligopoly.
Part of the problem is that in the US, a low number of ISPs control the bulk of the market, and in some areas there is only one ISP available. Under such a system, there is no advantage in being served by market forces, because there is aren’t any.