Who Can Save Us in the Battle for Net Neutrality Now?

leiaThe Internet world is coming to an end as we know it. The FCC is going to change its stance on net neutrality and allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to charge content providers for premium treatment of their content. This essentially gives the information superhighway a high occupancy vehicle lane that companies like Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify with their use of streaming content might need to buy their way into in order to ensure that the data their customers and advertisers are paying for is not throttled down by the ISPs. With this action by the FCC the battle for net neutrality just became exponentially more difficult.

In a previous post I have written how the lack of net neutrality could possibly have an effect on the adoption of 4K display sales. I also discussed how Netflix’s recent decision to pay Comcast not to slow down the speed of data transmission to customers could possibly change the way all content providing companies will be forced to interact with the ISPs. And it would seem that the FCC agreed with the idea of a “pay-to-play” service where the ISPs will be able to treat the data moving across the network however they wish, unless someone decides to pay a little extra.

Let’s assume that this victory for the ISPs gets implemented into our way of life. Companies like Comcast and Verizon are now completely in control of consumers ability to receive the data streaming across the internet. Imagine that the contract negotiations have begun with all of the major digital content providers mentioned above, and then the day comes when these ISPs have to sit in a meeting room across from the folks at Google.

Take a moment and picture this meeting of the minds. It is almost certain that the meeting would be in a boardroom with at least a few hundred thousand dollars’ worth of AV equipment installed while the suits being worn on either side of the table would probably be worth even more.

Who talks first, Google or the ISPs?

The point of this meeting is to negotiate the cost in allowing all of Google’s data to be transmitted along the “fast lane” of networking traffic. Keep in mind that Google is the 8,000-pound gorilla when it comes to what happens on the internet as they own the dominant search engine, an extremely popular e-mail service, and YouTube, which by itself accounts for over 15 percent of internet traffic after 5 p.m. In addition to those services, though, Google also has ventures and projects ranging far beyond just being the search engine or e-mail service of choice for the majority of the population. For the ISPs to think that this company is going to roll over and pay to allow content on the sites they support to not suffer data throttling is pure naivety.

Google installed their first city-wide fiber network in Kansas City, MO, just a few years ago. Earlier this year, it announced the desire to bring the world’s fastest internet service to 34 other cities around the U.S. If Google is able to install their fiber network city by city, not only would they not need to pay the other ISPs to allow for the high speed transmission of data, they could potentially supersede all the other options available in the region.

If that’s where Google stands, where do the ISPs come from in this instance? Going into the meeting they are holding a fair number of the cards. These ISPs control the ability to connect homes and business to the internet. With that connection speed being throttled down, Google’s ability to reach the consumers could be affected drastically. People would still be turning to Google for information and services, but the speed at which they would be able to get those would have slowed to the point of frustration, potentially pushing users away from those services. Think of it like a plumber and the utility company. The utility company (Google) wants you to have access to all the water you need, but the plumber (the ISPs) could twist the shut-off valve on the pipe and drastically limit how much water can reach your home. As a large portion of Google’s revenue relies on advertisement sales, if people are experiencing severe data slowdowns, it might cause those ads not to be seen, which in turn could change who is purchasing ad space with Google. So these ISPs would have to feel confident that they could get the investment in the new high priority data lane to prevent any possibility of lost revenue.

The impact of this meeting would be felt throughout the country regardless of industry, but with the heavy emphasis in the AV world of the Internet of Things, the push for Unified Communications and Conferencing (UCC) capabilities, as well as the widespread transition to all signal transmission moving to the networks, this is something that could potentially cripple a company’s ability to do business online if they aren’t able to pay the added cost to ensure that their data is prioritized.

Taking that concept even farther, what would happen if all the major content providers paid the cost of living in the fast lane? If all the providers are living in the fast lane, why have two levels and not just force everyone to pay a little more?

As I said before, this potential result is due to the fact that Comcast essentially held Netflix hostage, forcing them to pay extra to ensure that streaming customers would not have data throttling issues. Rather than fight, Netflix paid up. The rest of the ISPs saw that if they could force the largest transmitter of data to the home to pay for a little bit better service, why not make everyone?

The big question in the end will be whether Google is willing to reach into their back pockets to finance the Google Fiber service at the national level, and if so, how quickly would the cities work to allow for the infrastructure to be put in place?

Who would have thought that Google, a company many see as an evil but necessary Overload of the internet, could end up being the last line of defense for those hoping for net neutrality? I can almost hear the internet users shout an impassioned plea against this newly forming “empire” of the ISPs, “Help us Google, you’re our only hope.”

About Josh Srago

Josh Srago, CTS, lives by the philosophy that the best way to help people is to educate them about their curiosities. He works as a design engineer for TEECOM consulting group in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also serves as Editor-in-Chief at AVNation.tv and is the founder of SoundReason.org. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter (@JSrago).


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