Netflix and Comcast agreed to a deal last month that will see Netflix pay the U.S. Internet service provider an undisclosed amount in exchange for faster access to customers.
For the average user, the deal means “Orange is the New Black” will load quicker, but at a dangerous precedent for how internet and content providers do business in the future.
Although the recent deal looks to alleviate the strain put on Comcast’s data infrastructure, a vocal group of tech pundits argue the deal could lead down a slippery slope with ISP’s offering content providers “premium access.” Large ISP’s like AT&T and Verizon have already begun battling the FCC in the courtroom, because it would be a blessing to an ISP’s bottom line to crank up the speed for wealthy partners and leave the small-time websites in the digital dust. Not surprisingly, it is a battle the big companies are winning.
Pending regulatory approval, their acquisition of Time Warner makes Comcast the country’s dominant provider of television channels and internet connections. With the Netflix deal serving as a scary precedent, Comcast finds itself in a position to deal the death blow to the latest generation of innovators.
The web has become a goldmine rife with opportunities. Talented kids can circumvent Hollywood and have their movies funded; a crafty Harvard student can revolutionize the way we socialize; and an entrepreneur can sit in his garage and change the retail world forever.
But if ISP’s succeed in tipping the scales in favor of their wealthy compatriots, the same free and openness that brought Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos to prominence could be stamped out forever.
Our generation has been defined by unparalleled innovation and entrepreneurship. To pull the plug on net neutrality would be to pull the plug on a generation. Netflix is just the beginning.
Throughout its relatively short existence, the web has remained a primarily unregulated medium. But as we watch this new medium prepare to collide with one that is older, bigger, and badder, the question changes from, “Should the web be regulated,” to “Should the web be regulated by the government or the ISP’s?” We have reached a point where the world’s last truly free marketplace must choose a master.
Des Delgadillo, a sophomore journalism major, is copy chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.