The question of net neutrality has been a topic of concern since the advent of the Internet, but a 2005 decision by the FCC changed the landscape, giving internet service providers or ISPs the legal right to looser regulation and thus increasing their power to control online communication.
Since 2005, there has been much regulation in favor of net neutrality, and investigation into unlawful practices by the ISP. If ISPs were given the control they want over web traffic, broadly understood as the ability to price internet access according to the amount of bandwith being used, complicated questions arise. Would liberal ISP control over what is prized as a hotbed of enterprise and free speech infringe on American’s 1st amendment rights and inhibit healthy competition among businesses? Would ISPs leverage their control to pad their profits by subtly favoring their own online properties? Would Americans sit quietly while the cost of access skyrocketed in direct proportion to how much bandwidth they used?
Now, four years later, the FCC has expressed a strong position in favor of net neutrality, and plans on signing into law new principles to ensure ISPs remain neutral. Reading about this, I was reminded of Google’s maybe-monopoly on paid search, and the palpable influence Google’s methods of pricing keywords has on the economy and even media. In theory, minimum keyword bids are determined to a large degree by demand, but Google makes a profit every time a PPC advertiser pays for a click on a text ad. Who is to say Google isn’t manipulating things to their advantage?
I’m happy the FCC is moving towards net neutrality, and their investigation into Google’s practices is ongoing, but the recent announcement makes you think. If Google’s AdWords system exerts massive influence on what content is seen by users searching online for information, products, and services, why can’t the ISPs follow suit? And if the FCC criminalizes any attempt by ISPs to play Internet traffic controller, will the FCC be compelled to use a heavier hand with Google?
Do you think the net should remain neutral? Do you think the ISPs will gain any ground? Should Google be allowed to run its business free from government influence? Post your thoughts below!