Much has been made of the recent court decision striking down the FCC regulations commonly referred to as ‘Net Neutrality’ which until recently required carriers to provide bandwidth in a manner that was completely agnostic to what kind of content it is, the source of the content or any other ancillary factors. In the wake of the court decision many industry participants, including NationalNet, posted an array of viewpoints about the impact the decision may have on eCommerce and the way the internet is priced for consumers.
One thing that seems to have been overlooked is the growing ability of consumers to advocate for themselves, band together quickly, and collect support effectively. Now there are several groups sprouting up with websites, online communities and tools designed to hold carriers to task as a matter of free market economics rather than governmental regulation.
As one example, the site http://netneutralitytest.com has posted a simple ‘throttle checker’ that allows anyone to test their actual bandwidth speed across a variety of different cloud services including AWS East, AWS California, AWS Oregon, Linode, Newark, NJ, Linode, Atlanta, GA, Linode, Dallas, TX and Linode, Fremont, CA with more to be added in the near future. In seconds, a consumer can see for themselves whether or not their carrier has decided to throttle down the internet speed they are being provided for some forms of internet usage as compared with others.
The purpose is simple and the impact may be profound. In the lead-up to the court decision that ended Net Neutrality many think-tanks presumed that consumers would be unable to know if they were being affected, or would mistakenly blame entities like Netflix for degraded video quality without understanding the big picture of what is happening to their packets as they are piped from Netflix services to their own device by carriers seeking to add new service tolls along the information highway. That presumption is being quickly disproved and may be proof of something even more fundamentally important, that the internet has come of age and that society as a whole now has at least a functional understanding of how it works.
If consumers take enough of an interest in which companies do or do not throttle access and vote with their choice of provider, it very well may be the invisible hand of the economy that spanks the wrist of carriers seeking greater revenue, rather than any governmental agency or Congressional action. After all, it’s an informed and actively engaged populace would likely be the fastest way to get greater pricing competition, marketing of ‘unlimited neutral access’ and things of that sort on the horizon from companies like Comcast and Verizon.