Today'stechnology/2014/jan/14/net-neutrality-internet-fcc-verizon-court"> US appeals court decision on "net neutrality" is a major, and deeply worrisome, step in the wrong direction.
The promise, and for several decades the reality, of the internet was decentralization: a network of networks where innovation would take place largely at the edges, not in the center. It was the antithesis of the centralized systems of the communications and media systems that prevailed in the 20th Century.
We are on the verge of losing the internet that held such promise, at least for the near and medium term. Today's technology/2014/jan/14/net-neutrality-internet-fcc-verizon-court">federal appeals court ruling in a suit by
This was entirely predictable. The
The telecoms have repeatedly promised not to do what is in their obvious best interest: turn the internet into an enhanced form of cable television. You are deluded if you think any American corporation, much less these giants that grew up as government-granted monopolies, will operate for the public interest when that conflicts with their bottom lines and political power. I predict that in a few years,
Besides the carriers, who wins if this decision stands, and if
If you are a smaller company in media or digital services, you lose.
Really, though, you and I are the chief losers, because we will pay more and get less than we would have in a more competitive world where we, not the central authorities, make the key decisions about the services and media we want. We won't know what innovation doesn't happen, because it won't be around.
The one positive impact of today's ruling, I hope, is that it will reinvigorate a public debate about our online future. And maybe
To get the US on a better course, the
Eventually, if America is to have truly state-of-the-art broadband, as a number of other countries have done, we will have to recognize that there's little genuine competition among ISPs today. We'll have to accept that there's a natural monopoly in the deployment of fiber optic lines to homes and businesses (or at least to the curb outside). If we allow single companies to build those lines, we will have to require that those companies allow others to provide internet access itself on the lines – sharing them, in other words.
Last week my university hosted a group of journalism teachers from other schools. These professors are planning to help their students appreciate what I call the "startup culture", an entrepreneurial environment that rewards ideas and execution in an always-changing technology and media ecosystem. At the end of our five-day workshop, I implored these educators to learn more – and help their students understand – the impact policy has on what they do today, and what they will be able to do tomorrow. In particular, network neutrality is a linchpin to a future in which tomorrow's media ecosystem will emerge.
It's all about control, I said. If control reverts to the center of the networks, tomorrow's innovators will need permission, and tomorrow's media users will have fewer choices. Today's ruling is a big step backward for the future innovation America supposedly wants.
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