Is the business model — the place where money is made — IN the wires, or ON the wires? A network 100 times faster than what we have today would make an HD movie downloadable in minutes. Even more interesting are the products and services we can’t imagine. Telecom analysts say we don’t need a network that fast and wouldn’t use it. The telecom business model is about playing the cards they’ve got. They certainly aren’t interested in building a foundation for someone else’s business.
Today’s court decision doesn’t specifically speak to that, but it hints they won’t have to. In 2008 the FCC told Comcast to stop discriminating against BitTorrent traffic. Comcast went to court claiming the FCC didn’t have the authority to order that. Comcast said it had to control those who unfairly hog the network for the benefit of all of their customers. Comcast won.
The ruling would allow Comcast and other Internet service providers to restrict consumers’ ability to access certain kinds of Internet content, such as video sites like Hulu.com or Google’s YouTube service, or charge certain heavy users of their networks more money for access.
Google, Microsoft and other big producers of Web content have argued that such controls or pricing policies would thwart innovation and customer choice.
Consumer advocates said the ruling, one of several that have challenged the F.C.C.’s regulatory reach, could also undermine all of the F.C.C.’s efforts to regulate Internet service providers and establish its authority over the Internet, including its recently released national broadband plan.
Jason Kincaid looks at what’s next:
One option is for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a ‘Title II’ telecommunications service, which would give the FCC more control over it. It’s currently a ‘Title I’ information service, which the FCC has less power over.
Some carriers (who are opposed to net neutrality) have already warned the FCC not to do this, with Verizon EVP Tom Tauke stating on C-SPAN last month “Saying it is unwise to classify broadband as a Title II service is an understatement… We would end up with years of court battles”. Other possible routes for the FCC include taking the case to the Supreme Court, or lobbying congress to grant the FCC the ability to more effectively regulate broadband.
Mashable’s Jolie O’Dell reminds us:
today’s decision is less about the preferential treatment of corporations than about the issue of peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading. Around the world, ISPs are participating in traffic shaping and penalizing users who illegally download copyrighted material such as music and movies. However, when ISPs attempt to control a given user’s broadband use, they don’t consider whether content is being illegally or legally downloaded; they simply look for certain kinds of data and formats, such as torrent files.
My hopelessness lies in history…
This battle is old vs. new: on one side, the telcos (the CLECs & RBOCs) the cable-cos, the broadcasters… the has-
beens gots. They make money by owning the network. On the other side, the upstarts. The eBays and Amazons and Googles and those yet-to-emerge giants of Silicon Valley. They make money putting stuff on the network; they want an open network, the faster the better.
No matter how big those upstart giants are today, the has-gots are still stronger. That’s not particularly surprising, really. It costs a lot of money to build a network. You build it, you own it. Why should you let others on for a free ride? That’s network as business model. Imagine if the electric company owned the wires — and owned or controlled a piece of everything attached to the grid.
Why not network as infrastructure? If we built a super-high speed network, as Google seeks to demonstrate, lots of companies would build lots of things we’d like. And they’d make lots of money. But this battle was lost long ago, back in the early cable days. Then the question was would that new wire into your home be treated like a utility? Or controlled by the company that owned it?
Court decisions in the 1970s offered some hope but by The 1984 Cable Act the writing was on the wall. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 sealed the deal. Next up, net-neutrality. All those techy netizons with their reasonable arguments and high-hopes did a fairly good job building a movement around it. Still, my best hope was that the upstarts could bring the electronics industry on board and the battle of the Titans might be won by the good guys.
Tonight my hope is dashed. Tomorrow… that’s another day.
The full decision. A good explanation of it from Public Knowledge (and far more hopeful). A good history. Baron’s on the nuclear option (w/discussion). Coverage from Wired, CNet (w/discussion) and GigaOM.
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