The Impact of Policy and Politics on Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the concept that no company should be able to determine what level of services it can provide based on the content that passes through it. In other words, this means that there should be a level playing field for everyone to use the Internet and its content.

Companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that provide the underlying Internet “pipes” as cable companies and Internet Service Providers (ISP) are now interested in producing content. From their corporate standpoint this makes sense since these companies are exploring new areas for revenue generation to maximize profits. At the same time, this new direction also puts these companies in direct competition with content providers such as Netflix and HBO. While competition is good in the marketplace but this new direction gives the cable companies and ISPs an unfair advantage of delivering their own content faster than their competition since they own the “wire”.

For Internet technologies, the policy and political perspectives revolve around the issues of governance. These perspectives are discussed below:

Impact of Policy on Internet Technologies:

Based on the content, cable companies and ISPs will be able to prioritize which content should load faster. This content prioritization will typically entail conducting Deep Packet Inspections (DPI) where content will be thoroughly read by these corporations. As we can imagine, DPI opens the door for privacy concerns, security issues and slowing down of the Internet.

If Net Neutrality is eliminated and the wire owners are given the capability to direct the network traffic as they please based on their own criterions then this would become a governance nightmare for the government. How would the government be able to regulate this unfair competition? How would the government be even able to find out about this unfair competition? How would government manage the processes of net neutrality? How would government know if security policies have been violated and private information has been compromised? How would the government even know who to go after since there could be a point where the content providers could blame the wire owners of slow traffic while wire owners could blame content providers for creating content that is not “optimized”. These are questions that the government has to consider to have effective governance that everyone can adhere to.

For governments, the elimination of Net Neutrality will entail developing policies, regulations and technologies that monitor cable companies and ISPs to reduce unfair advantage. Where would this authority come from? Where would budget come from to create effective monitoring tools? Elimination of Net Neutrality leaves us more questions than answers and in a marketplace without oversight this could be a wild wild west where organizations create their own rules to eliminate the competition.

Impact of Politics on Internet Technologies:

The impact of Internet Technologies from a political perspective is noteworthy. The corporations that are pushing for elimination of Net Neutrality are rich telecom organizations with big lobbying money and election donations. While I am not suggesting that lawmakers have been bought outright but something does not fit well. Why would lawmakers oppose an open Internet that has given us companies like Google and Yahoo! that created numerous job opportunities for US citizens.

For governments that are responsible for governing wire owners can be affected by the political maneuvering of lawmakers. This can produce challenges for effective governance. How can effective governance happen when the lawmaker wants more business in the state where these big corporations are located and provide campaign funding. For Internet technologies this means that these technologies might not only have to comply with existing standards of packet deliveries and their flows but also might need to adhere to rules set by wire owners which might play politics and set in motion even that would be difficult to recover from.

As we can see that the policy and political perspectives are highly related and cannot be seen separately.  For government, corporations and individuals the lack of neutrality will mean an end of era a prosperity that we saw from the Internet revolution.