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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

the death of net neutrality and a deepening digital divide [video]

Net neutrality has been gutted. Net neutrality is "the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites." (Google definition)

 ISPs and others who have had to provide content without discrimination, no longer have to do that. Of course, we already have a prioritized system of sorts: the more you pay for charter internet access, the faster your speeds = more and better access to content, but the CONTENT itself was generally accessible. So, what does the death of net neutrality really do? It allows for a pay-to-play model to be developed for all access to content on the internet. Not only will google rankings impact whether or not you see a particular resource, but whether they have paid (and to whom and how much) may impact whether or not you can even get to it or know that it exists.

Let's look at the winners and losers: Winners: Companies - everything from your ISP to cellphone providers to well... anyone who provides content. "ISPs: For the most part this is going to be a big win for ISPs with the exception of Comcast... AT&T and Verizon’s actions will be more interesting: Verizon because it brought this suit before the courts, and AT&T because it has already made plans to implement a double-sided market on its wireless network with the implementation of its sponsored data plan, where companies can pay for the data that a consumer uses when downloading certain content on the AT&T mobile network." Notice that last bit... a sponsored data plan. Sounds great, right? Well, not exactly.

  • Consumers: "Consumers will lose, even if at first it feels like winning. We might be able to stream more movies without going over our broadband caps and paying overage fees. But the cost of that entertainment is that the ISPs will have succeeded in creating a system where only companies that can pay up will be able to deliver high quality content to consumers on demand".  For consumers it also may broaden the digital divide - if you have funds to pay for "unfiltered" content then you may be able to purchase access to the web as it exists. It all depends upon how the ISPs respond to this. It seems likely that there will be tiers of internet that develop. With standard radio, you are subjected to many ads, with serius paid satellite radio, very few. So, if you can afford to pay, you get "premium" content without ads. With the internet, we already pay for our access through our ISP and we pay for much of the content or access to that content through advertising, either through Google ads or ads on the individual website: yahoo, etc.)
  • Educational content consumers (schools, educators, etc.). For those who rely on internet resources to supplement their teaching and educational materials, it may become harder to find those materials. It may also mean that student access to some materials may be limited.
  • Content creators/distributors: Libraries, Archives, museums, nonprofits, individuals -- anyone offering free content who does not have a budget to pay for priority  - social media may become even more critical in getting the word out and getting access to content. It's sad - there is so much rich high quality content out there which is increasingly being pushed behind commercialized dreck. We also REALLY need copyright reform because it does not work for digital objects. (a separate but related issue)

what is net neutrality [video]
winners and losers

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