by William Teach | December 9, 2017 7:22 am
Andrew Mccollum is the chief executive of Philo, an Internet television company. He was also part of the team that helped create Facebook. The NY Times has given him a platform to tell us why we totally need the Government in charge of the Internet, by deeming it a utility, just like the phone system from the 1930’s. He actually ends up making the case that Net Neutrality is not needed, and that government doesn’t need to be in control
What Facebook Taught Me About Net Neutrality
My first glimpse of a world without strong protections for net neutrality was in 2004, when I was part of the team that created Facebook. Though it’s hard to imagine now, TheFacebook (as it was called at the time) was just a fledgling college social network, growing school by school. Some colleges didn’t like Facebook, and because they functioned as their students’ internet providers, they would simply block the site.
While those blocks were always rolled back — often after sustained student outcry — they acutely demonstrated the power of providers to limit the freedom and openness of the internet at whim. It is not too far-fetched to suggest that had schools had been more aggressive and unrelenting in blocking Facebook in those early days, the company might not exist today.
Let’s think about this. First, in terms of the private marketplace, because of consumer outcry blocks were eliminated. Second, interestingly, this was government attempting to implement blocks. Censorship, if you will. And you know that the majority of these colleges were public institutions. This is saying exactly why we do not need NN, nor the government in charge of it. Also consider that, during the latter half of the 2010’s, it is Leftists who want to censor the Internet. On college campuses, many want the social media app Yik Yak banned, because people say things that many consider nasty. True, many do say nasty things on it. That doesn’t matter, because 1st Amendment. But, leftists do want many sites they disagree with shut down.
And, really, people who attempt to shut down any and all opposing speakers on college campuses really shouldn’t be talking about freedom, should they?
Today I run a start-up called Philo that recently introduced a streaming live TV service. Because live video requires more bandwidth, a reliable connection and low “latency” (how long it takes information to travel through a system), services like ours are particularly prone to “throttling” and unfair prioritization by internet providers — tactics that will no longer be prohibited if net neutrality protections are rolled back, as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has announced as his intent. Even worse, because Philo directly competes with all of the largest internet providers, which offer their own live TV services, these providers have a strong incentive to put their thumbs on the scale.
I bet Philo pays more for their higher use of electricity for all the servers than other local businesses. Under a NN for energy, would it be fair that Philo be charged the same? You know that it would mean that the lower usage person would actually see their bill rise.
The internet has spurred innovation precisely because it has been an open, level playing field, where barriers to offering new products and services have continually come down over time. In the 1990s, creating a website required first figuring out to how to build and set up a web server — no small feat. In 2004, we started Facebook on a server we rented for $85 per month. Today, basic hosting in the cloud can be free for a year or longer, meaning that anyone with an idea has the ability to get it out into the world. However, if we allow internet providers to erect barriers to reaching customers, we risk reversing this trend.
Again, making the case that NN is unnecessary. Throughout the entire development of the Internet, right up to Net Neutrality was implemented by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in 2015, we did not have these burdensome rules. Things worked just fine. We didn’t need the heavy hand of Government
But we shouldn’t stop fighting to make our voices heard. If Mr. Pai’s proposal is adopted, we must take the fight to Congress and the courts until we regain a neutral internet that ensures consumer choice without constraint and innovation without barriers. It is a fight we should never concede — the importance of a free and open internet is too great.
Putting The Government in charge of the Internet isn’t exactly what I’d consider “free and open.” And that’s exactly what the NN disciples want. And it’s no wonder that the CEO of a company that will use massive amounts of bandwith wants to make sure that they do not have to, dare I say, pay their fair share.
Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.
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