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Net neutrality, what about brand neutrality?

April 11, 2010

(updated, see below)

Heard of Net Neutrality?

It’s the notion that ISP’s like Comcast and Verizon want to add ‘fast lanes’ to the internet. In essence, a company that pays more gets a faster website.

The issue of net neutrality doesn’t get a lot of the play in the US because it doesn’t really fit into a Democratic or Republican narrative.

The freedom of the web isn’t a left right issue.

But this week, it took a big hit.

“The ruling doesn’t just affect the ISPs’ ability to control load times. It could also allow them to restrict what information you get for your monthly broadband payment. In the worst-case scenario, Internet providers could require you to buy access to websites in “packages”—a social networking “package” with Facebook and MySpace, a sports package with ESPN.com and Rivals.com, or a music package with Last.fm and Pandora. Instead of today’s “Wild West,” the future Internet might look more like cable television.”

So, if an ISP has the right to offer fast and slow lanes, or ‘packages’ , then why can’t one brand pay more to have their website go faster than the competition?

The internet held the promise, initially, of leveling the playing field. And in many ways, it has. Local companies can use social media tools to enhance word of mouth. But if ISP’s like Comcast and AT&T have their way, all that will come at a price.

That most-likely sounds like a slippery-slope argument. Ergo, if you let an ISP slow down a Bit Torrent site, that’s different from Nike paying to have their site go faster than the site of adidas.

But the big question is, if this ruling stands, then what’s stopping a web that has fast and slow brand sites?

Update: Simon Owens sent me this e-mail:

I remember reading your recent post mentioning the court ruling on the FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but Rasmussen has a poll out today that found that 53% of Americans oppose FCC regulation of the Internet (I do some consulting for the broadcast industry)

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/general_business/april_2010/53_oppose_fcc_regulation_of_the_internet

Anyway, I thought this was something you and your readers would find interesting.

take care,
Simon

The post has this headline: “53% Oppose FCC Regulation of the Internet“.

I’m sure they do. What I’m not sure about is the slippery slope. As far as arguments go, I think the slippery slope argument is often dopey and simply changes the subject. IE, if you ban assault rifles, who says you won’t ban all guns? So when I throw out a slippery slope argument, I do it because I work on websites for brands. I even wrote about the slippery slope above.

What’s different here is that I want the FCC to basically keep the internet unregulated. Because an ISP slowing down one site or another is actually a form of regulating the internet for a fee. In general, regulations don’t keep a playing field level. But in this instance, the web is theoretically the most level playing field out there. Unless a huge ISP can play with speeds. Then the best website won’t win, the fastest will. Always.

And that’s what this should be about. Letting the best — not the fastest — ideas win.

So how about this question: are you for an internet where people can buy and sell access? Or would you like the government to regulate a free and accessible internet?

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