So I am officially worried now, it keeps me up at night, I am really really concerned. There has been a law that has been passing through the telecom committees on The Hill over the last 8 months or so. This potential legislation is getting much closer to being passed, and we are all unaware of the ramifications, though they don’t look good. There is a problem as this is a big looming issue, but there is limited media pick-up on this issue. Even Congress is still a little in the dark on this. I called Jim Moran’s office today and his staff was not even aware of the details yet.
This potential law has not been in the press, it has not been on Meet The Press. But it should be. Listen, from my experience in Internet commerce and consumer behavior online, I am predicting this law will go down in history as one of the biggest mistakes to the future of our country, over the past 40 years. Alright, Iraq is worse, but I am not sure long term how much worse.
What is this law, you ask… Well, both the House and Senate commerce committees are promoting new rules governing the manner by which most Americans receive the Web. The proposed legislation, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE), creates an environment lacking "network neutrality."
So in simple terms, currently, your Internet provider does not voluntarily censor the Web as it enters your home. This levels the playing field between the tiniest blog and the most popular Web site. This blog has the same access to the users of the net as does the Nytimes.com. Isn’t this what makes the net so great. Think of The Drudge Report, a great success story of our days. Matt Drudge was able to build a media empire, with just one web page and some links.
Well, the big telecom companies want to alter this dynamic. Both AT&T and Verizon have publicly discussed their plans to divide the information superhighway into separate fast and slow lanes. Web sites and services willing to pay a toll will be channeled through the fast lane, while all others will be bottled up in the slower lanes. COPE, and similar telecom legislation offered in the Senate, does nothing to protect the consumer from this transformation of the Internet.
Where is this coming from? Jealousy is the answer. The telecoms are frustrated that commercial Web sites reap unlimited profits while those providing entry to your home for these companies are prevented from fully cashing in, as if they don’t already make a ton of money. The real issue is there isn’t much alternative, so if Comcast and Verizon set this up, where can a consumer go if they don’t want to deal with this new performance banding.
If the new telecom regulations pass without safeguarding net neutrality, the big telecom companies will be able to prioritize the Web for you. They will be free to decide which Web sites get to your computer faster and which ones may take longer - or may not even show up at all.
By giving the telecoms the ability to harness all surfing, the government will empower them to shake down the most profitable Web companies. These companies will sell access to you, to Amazon.com, Orbitz.com and even alexandria.va.us, etc. What if these companies elect not to pay? Then, when you type in "amazon.com," you might be redirected to barnesandnoble.com, or your lightning-quick DSL Internet service might suddenly move at horse-and-buggy speed.
So, if you don’t get why this is such a big deal yet. Think of the longer term ramifications to new busiensses. If calling up the Web site of your favorite political commentator takes far longer than surfing to a commercial site, the new laws will have a direct impact on the Web's democratic utility. The proposed laws also facilitate future steps toward corporate censorship. Do you think that the telecoms, under the proposed regulations, would make it easy to visit the Web sites of competition or businesses they don’t want you to see?
Congressional passage of new rules is widely anticipated, as is President Bush's signature. Once this happens, the Internet will change forever, right before your eyes. The only reason I could ever support the current administration and Congress is because they are very business friendly. The problem is within business, they support the biggest guys. So what are the middle and smaller size guys going to do?
This is bad, really really bad!