Nearly 8 years to the day and here I am talking about net neutrality again. This is a conversation that refuses to end because in the natural order companies want to maximize their profits and find new revenue streams. However when they want to find those streams without introducing new services or making existing services better it is always opposite the values of the consumer. And in this case they want to muscle it in.
They’ve never had such a great opportunity with the new FCC chair being a former lobbyist on their behalf. The courts recently said that the FCC did not have the power to implement rules the way they had previously done to support net neutrality so now that they have an opportunity and requirement to rewrite those rules, it appears they will look at ways to do so that support the big internet service providers goals of prioritizing the internet in their favor and increasing costs to end users. And make no mistake that this will absolutely increase costs.
After all, it’s not like our internet in the US is not already overpriced. Take a look at the chart below which is a 2013 review of the cost of internet adjusted in price based upon individual buying power (a true scale of economic cost) and you will quickly see that while our level of service is on par with many other developed countries, our costs are significantly higher. This means that consumers in America pay more for internet. This is not because fiber in the US is more expensive than it is in those other countries. It is because we’ve been at this longer and there is limited competition in this space. Not only are costs not controlled by labelling these corporations as public utilities but also many standard consumer protections like those guarding against monopolies are not applied.
Businesses argue that they should have the right to charge however they want for their services. However they never acknowledge that the businesses they are going after (Google, Netflix, etc) are also consumers of internet service. They pay very expensive bills for very large pipes to the internet.
The real issue is the fact that people use the internet more now than they used to and these businesses which have so far profited extensively on high prices for basic services also appear to have short changed everyone by installing the smallest level of service they could get away with. Now that consumers are actually using the service they paid for, these companies are having to invest heavily to upgrade that infrastructure at a cost to the profits they have pocketed over the years.
I truly believe that in the end we have come to a head and that it is time to either introduce legislation that makes competition easy to create in the internet/telecommunications space or appropriately label these organizations public utilities.