A startup founder's please for net neutraility - and why you should care, too
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Editor's note: Nick Bhargava, co-founder of Raleigh-based GroundFloor which focuses on "crowd lending," wants entrepreneurs to take a stance on net neutrality before the FCC's comment period ends on Friday. He previously worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission, helping to draft the federal crowdfunding rules. He holds a JD and worked as legal counsel for SciQuest.Bhargava spells out his argument in a blog written for ExitEvent, which is a news partner of WRAL TechWire.
RALEIGH, N.C. - You might not be familiar with Net Neutrality, but it just might be one of the defining issues of our time.
Simply put, the core question of Net Neutrality is whether all bits are created equal. On one side are Internet users, startups, technology companies, content providers and First Amendment advocates, who believe the government should impose Net Neutrality rules. On the other side are the incumbent Internet Service Providers, who would prefer to operate and price discriminate consumers and content providers freely.
Government rules and regulations creating a Net Neutrality framework would require ISPs to provide access to content on a non-discriminatory basis. For example, Comcast could not charge you more money to access Netflix than it could for you access its own streaming video options. Likewise, Comcast could not charge Netflix more money to deliver content to its Internet subscribers by sole virtue of Netflix being a sought-after streaming service.
In this world, all bits are equal, and the ISPs mandate is to move bits from provider to consumer. We pay for throughput service regardless of what content those bits will form, just like we pay for domestic telephone service regardless of who is calling us. More importantly, the next great startup to challenge Netflix will be able to deliver a similar experience to customers at a similar cost. Comcast could not discriminate against the startup by charging exorbitant fees for service. This is more or less how telephone companies are regulated, and they are known as common carriers.
The Federal Communications Commission is tasked with regulating Internet Service Providers (as it is with regulating telephone companies). Rather than create a Net Neutrality framework, the FCC is currently considering proposed rules which would allow ISPs to discriminately price customers by creating “Internet fast lanes.” These rules would allow ISPs to impose contracts on content providers for better delivery service, and the only recourse providers will have against an unfair contract is to ask the FCC to review it, leaving the provider at the mercy of an uncertain administrative review.
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