Monday, March 2, 2015

Net Neutrality…A Good or Bad Idea?

Before we attempt to answer that question, let us first explain what we're talking about. Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs), including cable companies like Comcast and wireless providers like Verizon, should treat all internet traffic equally. It says your ISP should not be allowed to block or slow down access to certain websites or services, nor should it be allowed to set aside a "fast lane" that allows content favored by the provider to load more quickly than the rest. Nor should a search engine that has deep pockets like Google, be able to pay an ISP to get a faster downloads of its search results, over a company that is just starting out looking for new customers.

On February 26, the FCC approved new, stronger network neutrality rules that regulate internet access like a public utility. Network neutrality supporters hailed the proposal. But critics warn that regulations could be counterproductive, discouraging investment in internet infrastructure and limiting the flexibility of ISPs themselves to innovate.

So, is net neutrality a good or bad idea? One thing to keep in mind is this; the vast majority of people living in the United States (and for almost all of us living in RE/MAX Lakes Area Realty country) only have access to one ISP, because for some reason, companies don't want to compete with each other. This lack of choice usually means it’s the consumer that gets hurt each time an ISP gets into a dispute with a company like Netflix, for instance. How you may ask? Well, let’s say the contract between Netflix and your ISP is up for renewal. If your ISP doesn't like the deal Netflix is offering, they'll just slow down the speed that Netflix is coming into your home until Netflix cries “uncle” because they are getting calls from lots of subscribers who are seeing more “buffering” than Buffy. Do you think that doesn’t happen? Well, it already has more than once.

So, is net neutrality a good idea? It is if you believe government regulations will create a level playing field and keep costs down. Is net neutrality a bad idea? It is if you believe government regulations won't create a level playing field and keep costs down. Simple as that.

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