No one wants to see the spinning loading screen. We can all agree on that, right? Now imagine if you saw it over and over and over. Want to check out your Facebook newsfeed? Latency. Want to see a video clip on YouTube? Latency. Want to relax at home after work by catching up on your favorite show on Netflix? Latency. And lots of it.
We’ve written about net neutrality already, and have implored you to take the FCC up on its offer to share your opinions with them so that they can better shape the final legislation. That’s why we’ve decided to participate in the Battle for the Net initiative as part of Internet Slowdown Day.
No, we’re not actually slowing down our site – as a web monitoring company designed to combat that very thing, doing so probably wouldn’t sit well with our clients. But you probably noticed that spinning loading icon at the top of the page when you landed here. Now imagine that’s all you saw while you sat there drumming your fingers on the table waiting for this screen to load. Not an enjoyable experience, is it?
As we have said in the past, the idea of net neutrality is a complicated issue, and one that can get misconstrued by both sides. The idea of people having to pay for using up more than their fair share of bandwidth is not completely without merit. After all, everyone has to use the same pipes, and when one household has four different Netflix accounts playing simultaneously, why should their neighbor see his connection – the one that he’s paying just as much for – slow down?
The problem comes when you put the power of deciding which services and content get higher prioritization into the hands of ISPs (Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast, etc.), almost all of whom have financial motivation to game the system in favor of themselves and against their competitors.
Additionally, charging companies for access to a faster internet would stifle innovation and ultimately hurt new businesses. How can a new company (like Facebook or YouTube were a decade ago) get off the ground when they have to pay premium rates just to deliver content to their users? It’s simply not a sustainable system.
And while the FCC has theoretically ruled out such a fast lane/slow lane system, their latest proposal back in May lacked any sort of mobile standards, which means that ISPs could still institute such a system on their mobile networks like 4G LTE. Given the continued rise of mobile networks as the preferred way for people to use the internet, ignoring mobile completely would be a big mistake for the future of the web.
The problem of increased bandwidth usage can be solved by upgrading the infrastructure that carries online content to the end user, but the question is who will pay for it? If the high-bandwidth companies like Netflix and YouTube incur the brunt of the cost, they could then pass that cost onto the end users through increased subscription rates (in the case of Netflix) or through more advertisements to sit through (YouTube).
The other option is for ISPs to institute a tiered pricing structure in which people pay rates based on the amount of bandwidth they use, although that would of course require some form of measurement system that people could trust; asking users to put their faith in the ISPs charging them appropriately may be asking a bit too much.
Whatever the FCC ends up coming up with, the takeaway is clear: the internet is for everyone, and we must do everything we can to make sure that it remains as accessible and fair as possible.