Thursday, June 14, 2007

Open letter in favor of Net Neutrality

Competition is at the heart of all our telecommunications. It's what brings innovation, lowers prices and ensures quality of service.

This is failing lately. In my residence I only have access to one cable television provider and one telephone provider. This means there is no competition for these services, and I have to take the current market options, without a chance to bargain or even request better services.

Net neutrality is not different, except that it moves the competition from my house to a couple iterations below. But it will affect me, the customer, directly, and more importantly, monetarily.

For instance, without net neutrality, my ISP may opt to charge the services I use a fee for the availability of the data, or a fee for faster access to that data. This means that if I choose to access certain type of information I may have to pay for it, even directly to the ISP or to the content provider.

I for instance work from home eventually, and would have to pay a premium price for accessing the VPN at my work, or my company would have to pay a premium to allow us to work from home, more than they already pay today.

What's interesting in the Net Neutrality discussions is that the ISPs do not consider the fact that the content providers already are paying a premium for their backbones - in most cases, the backbones or the fiber optics connections are owned by the same telecoms who own the ISPs. Why would a company need to pay twice? Once for a large backbone with large capacity to be connected to the Internet, and second, for the ability to reach their customers who are on the other side of the fence.

I'm more afraid that the lack of choice in competition is what is going to affect us users in the future. Today there are a few options in DSL, but only 1 cable modem provider. The DSL options rely on a "land" line, which makes DSL competition harder, given that I only have access to 1 phone provider. If I compare the prices between the options I have, there's no competition between the telecom DSL and the others, given that they have to pay a premium to the telecom already. And instead of seeing more providers appearing in the market we actually are seeing less and less providers, either due to merges, or due to the fact that many have to rely on the few telecoms in order to reach us, the customer.

What happens when the content providers are also the owners of the large broadband companies and they then decide that any traffic from a competitor will be submitted to a premium charge? How is that democratic? How different is that from totalitarian regimes which censor the content available to their citizens?

Since the FCC and those against Net Neutrality are considering the broadband competition as a way to ensure Net neutrality is not needed, then there's something wrong, because there isn't "open" competition.

All that we can do is try to educate and hope that those making the decisions are able to do so with enough information and without the bias of those who would benefit from the changes in the system.