Recently we’ve seen a resurgence in the risks to net neutrality regulation in the US. I’ve been spending some time thinking about the possible outcomes of a loss of net neutrality and how it may not turn out quite so well for the ISPs as they might hope.
Currently a content provider has no reason to limit access to their content based on the traffic source (a Comcast customer vs a AT&T customer) but if the net neutrality rules change, not only would the ISPs be able to create “cable 2.0” to charge their customers based on “channels” of content accessed but the content providers such as Netflix, or Amazon, or heck, even my own little website could set up a similar agreements with ISPs. An example might be that Netflix may throttle or block any Comcast customer traffic because they feel the deal they have with Comcast isn’t good enough or their AT&T agreement exclusively keeps Comcast from having any access at all. Or the reverse could be true; for net neutrality reasons Netflix could choose to block altogether any ISP that segments internet access into bundles. Although the ISPs may feel that the power is in their hands as the last mile of the communication, in the end the Internet is not broadcasting and this can technologically be blocked, throttled, or gate kept, by all involved.
The decision on net neutrality will have far ranging implications on communication, news, and political information (and misinformation), but the financial motivation to control the flows of information may not work out exactly as those lobbying for it may believe.