One of the greatest fears about net neutrality is that companies like Comcast and Verizon will charge companies more to have their services boosted over a service provider’s network. For example, Comcast could make Netflix streaming go very slowly, because streaming hurts their cable business model. Then, in order to compete with other services, Netflix would be forced to pay an extra fee to have traffic going to and from their service operate at the same speed as any other site. This is of course, just a hypothetical situation, as such a move would be terrible for small businesses and consumers looking to have options in the features they use, rather than be locked into certain services.
Except this isn’t a hypothetical situation anymore, something like this has actually happened.
Today, Netflix and Comcast announced their plan to fix the slow Netflix service that mysteriously started being reported just after Verizon had net neutrality laws thrown out. Surprise! The plan involves Netflix coughing up the money to get Comcast’s network speeds the same for their service as they are for any other. Comcast claims it only happened because of the extreme amount of traffic going to the service, and that Netflix is paying for extra bandwidth, something other services aren’t getting. That’s still an unfair advantage they’ve now sold to Netflix, even if Netflix traffic was the actual issue. However, YouTube, Hulu, and other high traffic services weren’t having similar problems. On top of that, the timing was too close to the end of net neutrality to be coincidental.
Netflix, of course, didn’t want to be part of the downfall of Internet freedom in this country, and has been in talks with Comcast for some time now. Comcast, however, was adamant about holding Netflix’s business and their customers hostage. This is the beginning of something that could be incredibly unpleasant for small businesses and consumers, unless our government steps in and stops it. Imagine a world where no new companies can pop up, because they can’t pay Comcast enough to have decent Internet speeds. Imagine when Comcast then goes after the customers, asking them to pay for additional speed for certain services, charging both the company and the customer. Of course, Comcast loves the idea of this dystopian future where they control all entertainment and information on the Internet (for an exorbitant price), but it’s going to be horrendous for everyone else.
Fortunately, it seems as though the government will be working to draft new net neutrality laws. However, for the time being, Comcast is free to extort money out of companies like Netflix, whether or not they’ll ever admit to doing that here. Comcast may be coming after your wallet next.