Net Neutrality at the Crossroads!

Net-Neutrality-ProtesterI’ve read many articles arguing both sides of Net Neutrality. My conclusion is somewhat at a crossroads and I haven’t determined whether or not if Net Neutrality is a right or a privilege. There is the argument that putting limits on free flow of data will hinder the growth of online technology startups and create an ecosystem that only a few privileged companies can play in. Companies such as Netflix, YouTube can afford to pay the Internet Service Providers the monthly throttle fees to get their data onto the Internet Fast Lane. Where their data streams will be first in line for delivery to the consumers. But is that necessarily a bad thing? For the millions of Netflix users that pay a subscription fee on a monthly basis, shouldn’t they have the rights to have their data streams uninterrupted by content that is not important or junk? But that leads to the other stance. Who determines what content is not important or junk? Does the ISP’s have that right, even though the communication backbones are not all designed, developed or built out by them.  An ISP is a small part of a much larger picture of how the U.S. Internet infrastructure is setup to deliver content to consumers. They have taken a stance to control its flow of data. Arguing that a majority of the data being pushed through the backbones are generated by a handful of companies. Netflix and YouTube alone has an aggregated usage of 48% of the U.S. Backbone. So to put that in perspective. If we had to divide up a pie to share, 48% of that would be eaten up by 2 companies. Even with that being said, does the ISP’s have the right to charge these companies?

Ben Popper a writer for The Verge  makes some valid points in arguing for Netflix’s decision to pay the piper, in his article “Deal with the devil: why Netflix broke its own rules on net neutrality”.

Recently, Netflix generated some animosity amongst other tech companies by folding to the demands of the ISP’s  or in this case one ISP (Comcast) and settling to a pay agreement so that Netflix content will be put onto the internet fast lane. But was it because Netflix felt that is was getting away with a bigger piece of the pie for such a long time? Netflix does not lay Fiber or own any Cable and ISP’s. They are merely a content provider that a lot of consumers want. But does that still give the ISP’s the rights to hinder free flow of data for those who cannot afford to pay a price? I am not a believer that one entity or group should have the rights to hinder progress for any other entity or group. But I do question as to whether or not if companies such as Netflix should pay a price.

But the crossroads is a tricky place, because it’s the place where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to become a great blues musician. We have to decide as to which road to take, but we better make sure that whatever road we take will not affect the growth of technology and sharing across the internet. Otherwise, the growing pains of the internet will be exponentially multiplied.