Those who pay more will get an “enhanced” experience.

This is a from TDavid explaining what will happen to the web now that the House has rejected “net neutrality” — this is representative of the many arguments in favor of net neutrality.

Here’s my question: Isn’t it true everywhere in life that those who pay more get an enhanced experience?

Air travel
Medical care
Legal representation
Flat screen TVs
Baseball tickets

Other than love, those who pay more almost always get something better (or at the very least something that can be perceived as better).

It’s deeply naive to expect that the web would turn out to be any different

After all, internet access is a PAID service. (For goodness sake, you have to pay more for broadband than dial-up!)

Unless taxpayers want to provide the subsidy to make internet access a free public service equally available to all, the principle of “those who pay more will get an enhanced experience” will continue to apply.

I’m not saying this is good or bad — I’m just observing that we live in a market-based economy.


TDavid does a fabulous point-by-point deconstruction of my examples above in a follow-up post. There a couple of a key points at issue here:

There is a big difference between offering those who pay more additional features, perks and content then downgrading the basic service people are already using.

Undoubtedly the threat is that the ISPs will essentially rewrite the terms of service to give us LESS than we are currently getting for what we pay.

So what?

Many airlines no longer provide a hot meal. If you don’t like it, you can drive. If your ISP is providing less for the same price, then switch. It’s a FREE MARKET.

But wait, the argument goes…

What is deeply naive is to believe that companies will not try to use and abuse the fast lane to their advantage. Even at the expense of damaging an existing infrastructure that is working and allowing more and more people to access. Toll booths for access to content that is supposed to be free is the big crime here.

“Content that is supposed to be free” — ah, well, there’s the problem. Maybe Google, and Yahoo, and YouTube, and everyone else want to make their content and services free, but they are NOT THE ONLY PROVIDER in the value chain.

If Google wants to provide me with internet access, then they can do whatever they want — make it ALL free.

But as long as internet companies are not providing the entire service end-to-end, then they can’t expect to dictate the terms of service.


Billg brings up the other key pieces:

In my market, there’s one cable company and one telephone company. That means two Internet marketers. The entry of competitors into this market is effectively blocked. It is not a competitive market. If I decide to walk away from one of these companies, no other cable company is there to sell me a similar product.

Well, then we should be lobbying Congress to open up the market to competition — if there are monopolies, you don’t fix the problem by telling the monopolies how to operate, you fix it by breaking up the monopoly so that market competition can do what it’s supposed to do.

As others have said, the expectation is not that different kinds of “content” will be available at different prices. The expectation is that entire portions of the network will be unavailable regardless of my ability to pay.

These sense of direct connection to YouTube (for example) and other “portions of the network” is only an illusion — there is a third party in between us. Just because the ISPs never thought about charging me and/or YouTube extra for that “free” connection we have doesn’t mean we should be outraged that they suddenly woke up to a new market opportunity.

And if they can get away with it because competition doesn’t exist, then increase competition.