Over past 20+ years I have had the great fortune to make my living building both applications and the “plumbing” on the Internet and what has become the World Wide Web. I have seen first hand how innovation works in this industry. The disruption that takes the entire network by storm one day becomes the de facto standard the next.
I am deeply concerned about the recent proposed rule changes regarding the neutrality of network providers. Allowing last-mile providers to charge for “premium” access to their subscribers will cause two separate, deleterious effects: It will harm innovation, and it will widen the digital divide in this country.
First, no one can predict where the storms of disruption will form. ISPs are trying to maintain a delicate balance providing the best service to their customers. Disruptions, by definition, wreck that status quo. Allowing the ISPs to pick winners (at best, and giving priority to their own offerings at worst) gives a huge advantage to entrenched incumbents. It would be disastrous to the innovation that has been driving one of the shining stars in our economy of late, and one that has been sorely needed.
This is doubly disastrous for the majority of Americans for whom their ISP is a virtual monopoly. They cannot vote with their feet and move to a provider more willing to allow the disruptive traffic the innovative service requires. They are stuck with whatever their ISP deigns to offer.
Second, allowing ISPs to double-dip and charge both subscribers and content/service providers for the privilege of connecting will exacerbate the digital divide in this country, and will mean that only the relatively wealthy consumers will be able to afford a decent Internet experience. It will also further widen the divide between the US and the rest of the developed world, where we already pay more for much slower connectivity.
You have the power to change all of this. For these reasons and more, I urge you to reclassify broadband internet as a telecommunications service, and keep access equitable for everyone.
Thank you for your time.
San Francisco, CA