This Wednesday is the Battle for the Net – the Internet’s big fight on Net Neutrality. i2Coalition has been working with longtime member Golden Frog, fighting hard on this issue for years now. For those new to this debate, let us explain WHY we are fighting.
To do so, I want to offer up an analogy I used with my dad. He’s a reader of the Wall Street Journal. A while back he read, in their opinion section, an overview of Chairman Pai’s take on Net Neutrality. More specifically, it was an article supporting the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which levied the fallacious argument that their proposed course of action was “deregulating the Internet”. I was pretty infuriated, feeling compelled to explain why this is not accurate.
My dad is in manufacturing. The things his company make need to get shipped. I asked him to imagine a world in which he didn’t have DHL, UPS, USPS and FedEx to choose from, because they territorialized and each had their own region. Then I asked him to imagine a Wall Street Journal editorial that advocated giving those territorialized shippers the right to do whatever they wanted with shipping charges. Despite what the WSJ editorial Board said, rolling back the Open Internet order is no more ‘deregulating the Internet’ than allowing postal delivery agencies to exploit the means of delivery would be ‘deregulating manufacturing’. That’s about the situation we have here.
The ‘last mile’ is a naturally non-competitive space. It is what it is. It doesn’t make sense for a plethora of companies to compete by each tearing up your front yard in hopes that you might buy broadband from them. It’s a categorically different type of environment than the rest of the Internet ecosystem, which has low regulations, low barriers to entry and is incredibly competitive.
When a company that has a lot of content they want to get to end-users wants it to get there quickly, they enter that competitive marketplace and they choose the options that make sense for them. Maybe they load balance their content around the world. Maybe they use a CDN. Maybe they splurge on super-fast SSD drives. Maybe they choose web hosting providers with the best, fastest, most reliable delivery networks. When they do all that, they are operating in a competitive space.
What’s at stake now is what happens when you get out of that competitive space, and down into the naturally-uncompetitive last mile. What rules should exist there? Should the company that controls the last mile be able to pick winners and losers in the rest of the ecosystem? The answer should be no.
What will the Battle for the Net hopefully achieve? Well, a good start would be showcasing that the vast majority of the public is in support of:
- A ban on blocking.
- A ban on throttling.
- A ban on paid prioritization.
- Ongoing oversight of other discriminatory practices.
This is a complicated, nuanced debate, and I’m not purporting to have all the answers here. However, when I hear that walking back the Open Internet order is ‘deregulating the Internet’, I can’t let that stand. The last mile is not ‘the Internet’, and it shouldn’t be treated as if it is.
The i2Coalition is busy completing its response to the FCC’s NPRM on their “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal. You can review i2Coalition’s 2014 NPRM on the Net Neutrality rule while we work on making a difference with this one too.