Critics vociferously outraged at net neutrality talks

Posted by Mark Raby

Apparently people don't like it when giant corporate behemoths start talking about how to change the way the Internet works for the purpose of lining their pocketbooks.

Google and Verizon, undisputed leaders in online and data communications, have been in discussions for several months over a new way to handle online loading times and data consumption.

The idea is to create a tiered service not only on the consumer side of the Web but also for content providers. Say for example that Ebay really wants its page to load quickly on Verizon's high-speed Internet service. It could pay Verizon an extra fee and voila! Suddenly Ebay loads in an instant while your cousin's blog muddles in a pool of molasses.

On the end user side of things, consumers could decide how fast they want their Internet speed by paying for one of several tiered options - which would foreseeably make it cheaper for some users who don't use the Internet a lot, but would obviously create a strain for anyone who wanted the fastest connection possible, which is what most broadband users expect just from signing up for broadband in today's market.

Yes, everything could be achieved with money under the proposed plan. If you think this sounds absurd, you certainly aren't alone.

Huffington Post contributor Josh Silver blasted the idea, asking, "How did this happen?"

"We have a Federal Communications Commission that has been denied authority by the courts to police the activities of Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast," wrote Silver, as though the two companies are part of some rogue military agency.

The Giga OM blog wrote of the huge conspiracy, "It marks Google selling out the tech and startup community so it can advance its own economic interests."

Even those who are outraged can see why this makes sense from a business perspective. Anything that can be done to revolutionize the way the Internet is monetized is obviously mouthwateringly sweet to companies like, well, Google and Verizon. And seriously, think about it - if a deal like this goes through and becomes the norm, what are you gonna do? Stop using the Internet?

Internet service providers have their customers by the cojones, and if one of them does something that immediately sparks their revenue, you can bet the others will follow suit. That's why many advocates are urging lawmakers to basically make equal Internet access a given right. But that issue has been tied up in Washington for years and is very unlikely to change any time soon. Until then, the big Internet companies have all the cards.

There's even a viral online campaign called "Save The Internet," which pushes for leaving things the way they are, where everyone gets equal access and people can't buy their way to preferential treatment.

Is it a foregone conclusion, though? Certainly something with so much public outrage cannot possibly go through? The answer: of course it can. We've seen it recently with AT&T's decision to start limiting the amount of data people can consume on their smartphones, lest they be pelted with extra fees. It will likely just be one of those growing pangs we have to suck up.

Enjoy the current state of the Internet while you can, folks, because this issue is not going away. Some how, some way, some day, there's going to be second-class Internet users, snobby elitists with better access, and a commercialization of content built into the very core of the entire Internet.