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The End of Net Neutrality: States' Rights! (Haha JK LOL)

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The End of Net Neutrality: States' Rights! (Haha JK LOL)

Let's turn our attention to one potential savior of net neutrality — municipal broadband. And let's see exactly how those services won't be as much help as you think.

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One of the common refrains heard today in the argument over net neutrality is that municipal broadband will save us.

Well, it won't.

Okay, so let's soften that a bit; I don't think it will, even if it is still allowed, legally. Which it may not be. ISPs are lobbying hard against municipal broadband today, arguing that internet access by definition crosses state lines and therefore must be regulated by the federal government. So far, it seems that the FCC is buying this argument too.

So it doesn't seem like muni broadband will even be an option in the future, but just for fun, let's pretend that it is. And it still won't solve the net neutrality problem — not really.

Remember, this is a cash grab. ISPs want a piece of the internet-money pie. They're tired of sitting on the sidelines while Google, Facebook, and Netflix rake in money. Money in some cases that is made possible by investments in high-performance networks by the ISPs that carry the movies, videos, and information these companies built their businesses on.

Now, if we look at the expense of passing high definition video from a hosting facility to your house, it's clear that the cost of bandwidth is distributed throughout the path. The distribution of these costs isn't something I'm familiar with, but it clearly is not entirely subsumed by, say, Tier 1 ISPs.

Nevertheless, those Tier 1 ISPs will still shape traffic in their networks and require downstream networks to pay for preferential bandwidth for particular products. And downstream ISPs will need to pay if they want to be competitive. Now, it's not that Tier 1 ISPs have to do this — they want to. Remember, this is about extracting revenue from content producers. And to do that, they need to enforce a hierarchical traffic model as much as they can. And they will.

This cost will be passed on to advertisers, content producers, and consumers. Content producers and advertisers will structure their business models to accommodate for this too. It's too expensive and problematic to maintain two entirely different cost structures, one for open ISP customers and another for non-neutral ISP customers, so they will maintain only one. That structure will, at worst, be targeted to non-neutral ISPs, and at best, will average the costs in some way based on the proportion of customers from open ISPs opposed to non-neutral ISPs. Either way, customers from open ISPs will be charged more than they would otherwise.

Municipal broadband has worked pretty well to provide high-speed internet access to underserved populations, absolutely. But is it a solution to a non-neutral internet? Nope.

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Topics:
net neutrality ,cloud ,municipal broadband

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