That's the question that has been running around in my head the past few weeks as both sides on the Net Neutrality issue have been rolling out the propaganda machines. On one side you have Google and eBay writing letters explaining why passing regulation to handcuff AT&T and Verizon is a good thing for you You even have websites like TypePad Hacks, which I used to make changes to this site, deciding to make two posts on the issue (gee - thanks for helping me on my website - now go back and get me some more good hacks). Everyone has an opinion, so why not give mine as a veteran of the Old and Better AT&T?
You know what side I'm on? The side that makes it easier on my wallet. Let me remind you that the internet has NEVER been neutral. You pay to get access to it and if you pay enough you get to move from a narrow band connection to a broadband connection. And, if you have broadband and want faster downloads, you pay even more. Hmmm, isn't that how it always worked? YES.
Now who else can pay for access? How about the other end where companies push content out to you. You know, the Microsofts, eBays, Amazons, YouTubes, MySpaces of the world. Shouldn't they pay too? And, if they push out more content that requires them to eat into networks shouldn't they pay more too? Like streaming video. To be fair, these sites are already paying for hosting and server costs for their site, but if their services require more use of the "pipe" to deliver content, shouldn't they be charge more too? For an interesting viewpoint, check this article out at The WashingtonPost called No Neutral Ground in This Internet Battle.
Ok, so let's look at the doomsday scenario pitched by some of these companies. They are trying to tell you that creativity will be doomed if AT&T and Verizon can charge different rates to provide faster downloads for people. And, that the small guy can't get big if there is an additional charge. Don't believe it. How much money would have to be charged for Google to shut down its doors? Billions. The small guy will still want to get big someday because they can still get rich on the internet, even with this added cost based on usage. The usage cost will become another line item on an income statement and the bigger you get, the more usage you use, the higher the access fee. Isn't that how it works for the consumer?
Perhaps they'll pass through these costs to you. That's possible, but I'd rather take my chances on the very competitive internet space trying to absorb these costs rather than the less competitive broadband access world. Look I have three choices for broadband - Embarq (BTW - the worst brand name ever), Comcast, and DirectTV so the odds are high that they'll pass these costs onto me. (As my wife says, "It is all about Eric".)
Someone has to pay for these networks. The New AT&T is not in the business of giving away access for free. It is either you or the Microsofts of the world and the last time I looked Microsoft's market cap is a lot bigger than yours, unless of course you are Bill Gates. Me? I'm betting on less regulation so I can keep more money in my pocket and less in the billionaires that are trying to protect their company's income statement. That's all that I see when I read their articles and blog posts- protecting income statements with a doomsday scenario. Whatever side you are on, vote with your wallet. What am I missing here?
P.S.Please remember to vote in the poll below on whether I should keep my paper edition to the WSJ