The hope is that competition will work where regulation has not, but the fear is that there just isn't enough competition.
your chances getting your packets streamed through the jungle of more moderately priced providers. That isn't any different than getting streaming video and content directly from the provider through a dedicated data channel like digital cable, and when faced with the fact that the pure-data-pipe business model is no more, I'm sure people will grudgingly pay up for the fast-lane services. But the concerns remain: Will the slow lane really be that congested?
Take online games. The biggest online game has about 11 million users globally, a small portion of which are within a provider's service area. Would the provider ever bother creating a fast-lane service option for such a small audience? Would it be affordable? These are the fears of net neutrality proponents.
Even if people were willing to pay for the faster service, would the providers want to offer that once they've garnered the mass market, or would it not be worth the effort? And when you consider that possibility, how many services do you use online that might not warrant a fast lane? There is a domino effect of pitfalls that could put this debate on a very different course.
I would love to see net neutrality continue and triumph. However, I expect it will lose in the end. If that happens, the majority of my Internet usage will probably wind up in the slow lane, and that worries me.
One possible answer would be to regulate the slow lane. But if you regulate the slow lane to have a minimum service that doesn't discriminate, then you've essentially just regulated net neutrality back into existence. Why bother paying for a fast lane account? Fearing regulation, the providers might make the slow lane not-so-slow. If that's the case, how will they differentiate from fast-lane service?
Another option would be to allow users to select from a list of a-la-carte channels of data to fill their bandwidth baskets. This might be the most interesting outcome, but we would first need the FCC to set a ruling on cable channel unbundling to act as a model.
In the meantime, it looks like we'll be seeing more diverse offerings from our service providers -- whether or not we'll have pay more for them remains to be seen.
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Esmeralda Swartz is Chief Marketing Officer of MetraTech, a billing and settlement software provider. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and ... View Full Bio
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