With the latest merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as some moves taken by cell phone providers, there has been a great deal of discussion around Net Neutrality. While I have my opinions, I’ll try to be as factual and concise as possible and explain a bit of what Net Neutrality is and what businesses are attempting to do.
For the sake of explanation, lets think of the physical wiring of the internet as roads – it is ultimately infrastructure. Large internet providers own cables that send data from our computers and devices to and from servers. So, like a family vacation, if we want to get from our home to some destination, we have to take roads. The internet is the same.
A few years back, the largest internet companies – Google, Verizon, etc, got together and agreed that they were not going to restrict traffic flow. In short, they agreed that if you have a car, you can drive on the roads. If there is heavy traffic, things will slow, and if you have an open road, you can drive fast. It is a bit more complicated than that, but I on a general scale, that covers it.
Just recently the US Government warranted that these large companies did not have the power to create/enforce such an agreement – mainly because the action was considered collusion. Despite the agreement being beneficial for consumers, the logic is sound. The US Government resolved that only the FCC could make such rules/restrictions about internet traffic/use. Since that ruling, no laws have been put in place to enforce any sort of neutrality.
Since then, a few telecom companies have taken steps that have had the Net Neutrality community upset. The proposal was that the cell phone company would allow a business to pay for an individual’s wireless usage. Going back to the real-world car example, that is like saying if you drive a Honda, you can gas up for free, but not Fords. The telecom companies are the ones who control who gets free gas, so you can see that this would make Honda a more favorable car. Many argue that it gives an unfair advantage to large companies, who can afford to do such large-scale deals.
And – since I mentioned it above, the merger between TWC and Comcast is of concern to people because it merges two very large providers into one. Incentive for that newer company to increase speeds, reduce price, and provide better service is reduced. Reality is, there is no immediate threat to Net Neutrality by this merger, just many people concerned of poor service.