Where Do I Stand with Net Neutrality?

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

Where Do I Stand with Net Neutrality?

In last week’s blog, I explored the “free” part of the Net Neutrality issue.  In this week’s blog, I want to explore the wireless internet, since as the wireless capabilities increase, we are getting more and more of a broadband experience wirelessly.

In the wired broadband world, a throttling of content would be frowned upon.  But in the mobile broadband world, a throttling of content is kind of allowed.  Because of the “iHog” issues from early 2010, AT&T introduced tiered pricing for data plan usage later on in 2010.  And wireless data plan usage is for internet access, either for YouTube, Skype, Pandora, or downloading Angry Birds.  Why then, is this policy “allowed” for mobile broadband but not for fixed?  This doesn’t make sense to me.  But AT&T’s policies do and I fail to see why these policies wouldn’t be applied to fixed networks as well.

So what about Skype being used over an AT&T wireless network?  In this case, you will be paying AT&T for data services, but not paying them for voice services.  And from AT&T perspective, this is not good, as it means less money to them since we all know voice services garner more revenue than data services.  And if AT&T chose to somehow block this service, since it interferes with a part of their business, this is what the Net Neutrality advocates are trying to make sure never happens.  As a business person, I would think AT&T has the right to do what they want since they paid the money to install their network.  Why spend all the money and let someone just take money from you?  But even when using Skype, you’re still paying the infrastructure provider for the network usage.   So I’m OK with it and the market will dictate the right prices, so in this case AT&T should be able to throttle the Skype service.  Their tiered pricing policy, and monthly data fees, takes care of the market aspect.

To close, this is clearly a complex topic.  And to make it more complex, the FCC can’t make laws, so their “rules” are just that - “rules.”  From a perspective of other items on the plate of the FCC, they seem fine to me.  Because the FCC needs to move beyond Net Neutrality and start thinking about how the US will lead with mobile broadband.  I’ve been reading a lot of analyst reports lately and from what I see, in just a few years, the US will be in the middle of the pack in terms of capability of their wireless networks.  Let’s let the FCC tackle these kinds of issues and move on from Net Neutrality. 

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