The Debate on Net Neutrality in 500 Words or Less

The Precap:

  1. Allowing Internet service providers (ISPs) to charge websites a premium because their content uses a lot of bandwidth is like allowing electricity companies to charge air conditioning manufacturers a premium during the summer because their product uses a lot of electricity.
  2. You pay for electricity just like you pay for broadband, and these companies should not demand to essentially be paid twice before providing you access to a service you should already be receiving.
  3. If the Internet is not governed by net neutrality, companies will pass the cost of these premiums onto you in the form of higher prices and online startups that cannot afford to offset the cost of these premiums will be forced to compete on an unequal playing field where their competitor’s content reaches consumers faster than theirs.

It’s a hot summer day, and you, your neighbors, your neighbors’ neighbors and so on are all using the Internet to stream movies, TV shows, and other various contentrunning your air conditioning units at full blast. Each of you realize these streaming servicesunits use a lot of bandwidthelectricity, but you gladly pay your Internet service providerelectricity company, Comcast or VerizonPowercast, for the bandwidth and speedwattage it takes to streamremain cool.

However, Comcast and VerizonPowercast noticenotices that streaming servicesair conditioners are consuming a much larger portion of the total bandwidthelectricity its customers use during the summer months, & theyit now wantwants to start charging these websitesair conditioning manufacturers a premium to fulfill the disproportionate demand for bandwidthelectricity generated by their products.

In fact, until these websitesair conditioning manufacturers pay these premiums, Comcast and VerizonPowercast havehas decided to limit the total amount of bandwidthpower that a single websitemanufacturer’s units can demand at any given time.

While this doesn’t affect people using Redbox, thethe less popular streaming service that justair conditioners manufactured by Freezebox, which just happens to be owned by VerizonPowercast, you use the popular streaming service,air conditioner manufactured by NetflixChillix, which starts streamingblowing air more slowly and sometimes stops working altogether.

Although NetflixChillix can afford to pay the premium Comcast and VerizonPowercast demanddemands to streampower its product, NetflixChillix thinks it is unfair to have to pay this premium because it, after all, is aan websiteair conditioning manufacturer, not an Internet service providerelectricity company. NetflixChillix argues that Comcast and Verizon’sPowercast’s customers already paid them for the bandwidthelectricity necessary to use their product and these Internet service providersPowercast areis wrongfully preventing their customers from using this product until they get paid again by NetflixChillix.

You realize they have a point, but Comcast and VerizonPowercast areis the only Internet service providerselectricity company in town and you don’t have the option of switching to another competitor.

However, you can switch to Verizon’s Redbox servicePowercast’s Freezebox units. And NetflixChillix knows that you might have no choice but to use their competitors’ products if their websiteair conditioner continues to stream contentblow air too slowly to play incool your home. Thus, NetflixChillix agrees to pay an undisclosed amount to Comcast and VerizonPowercast to streampower their product, and recoups the cost by raising the price you pay for their websiteair conditioners.

Yet, it is not until much later that you realize the true cost of this premium. Because bandwidthelectricity is a fixed-sum commodity, the bandwidthenergy now being prioritized for NetflixChillix’s units reduces the amount available to all other websitesair conditioners on the market. So while NetflixChillix’s units streams high quality 4K content smoothlygust cool air like a hurricane, the contentair conditioners of every new startup company trying to become the next NetflixChillix is pixelated and buffering from start to finish wheeze air like an old desk fan. Unable to get off the ground because they cannot compete with established companies on this unequal playing field, these new startups close shop, leaving customers with unfulfilled promises of innovation and less choice.

But that isn’t how things work, right?

In this situation, we wouldn’t say that electricity companies can start charging air conditioner manufacturers because their product creates a large demand for electricity. Rather, we rightfully assume that being able to handle this demand is a sine qua non for why we pay these companies in the first place. And by refusing to allow Chillix air conditioners to work properly, they are in essence telling their customers that they want to paid twice for delivering the same electricity.

Oh and for the magic trick, just click to change references to air conditioners, blowing air, Chillix, electricity companies, and Powercast to variants of websites, Netflix, streaming content, ISPs, and Comcast or Verizon, and, abracadabra, just like that, you learned why net neutrality matters without me even having to say the words.

AJ Afkari | techlawgic

A.J. Afkari is a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in legal matters related to the Internet, technology, and all things intertwined. He received his B.A. from UCLA, his J.D. from USC, and his A.J. from his mother.

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