Houston Freeway

Net Neutrality & Barriers to Entry

Just one week to go until starting my 12 week course at Makers Academy (see previous post) and I’ve been ploughing through a variety of tutorials to get up to speed with many of the concepts we’ll be using.

The range of helpful online resources that are free to access, which people have invested a lot of their own time in is amazing.

There seems a strong sense of cooperation within the coding community, helping more people get involved and bring their ideas to life and to market.

I was pondering this in the context of the debate over net neutrality.

It seems to me that enabling Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate against certain traffic would lead to raised barriers of entry for new internet businesses, something which the area is happily short of.

Coming from 20 years in the airline industry, where barriers to entry are still very evident* it’s refreshing, as I embark on learning to code, to be able to think more open-mindedly about new business opportunities, something that not enshrining net neutrality could limit.

However we also have to consider the ISP’s perspective. Ever growing internet traffic demands investment in infrastructure to deliver to customers.

So who should pay;

  • The generator of the content (eg. Netflix, Facebook)?
  • The customer who is consuming it?
  • The ISP who is delivering the content?

The answer is probably a mix of all three;

  • Shouldn’t a content provider, like Netflix, pay the real cost of delivering their content across a constrained network, giving an incentive for efficiency?
  • Shouldn’t a customer who is consuming more bandwidth than others pay a proportionally higher cost for receiving that service?
  • Shouldn’t the ISP have an obligation to provide a base level of Internet access, without bias, to any customer?

What I do fundamentally believe at the heart of this is that companies involved in the distribution of the web should not be allowed to discriminate against specific providers of content.

Allowing discrimination would create barriers of entry disrupting innovation and competition.

And this is what I think really needs protecting in any legislation about Net Neutrality.

What are your thoughts?

* Getting a new airline off the ground is still quite difficult due to high cost of aircraft, even with leasing, certification and regulation, though the barriers to entry in the airline industry have lowered considerably through growth of non-hub airports, open skies agreements and web distribution to name just a few.

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