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It looks like FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the lobbyists from Google will get their way: Net neutrality seems surer than ever, for better or for worse*.But this will likely mean the end of all-you-can-eat Internet access for consumers, and will likely lead to more expensive Internet access, especially for those who watch a lot of online video.
If the FCC Chairman’s plans, announced today, are adopted, this means that Internet service providers would not be able to treat some Internet traffic better than other Internet traffic (for a fee, of course), and will have to treat all traffic equally. (With some exceptions, like managing their networks.) That’s “net neutrality.”
This is generally perceived as good news for Internet companies like Google and Facebook, and not-as-great news for telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. (Though the telecom lobbyists should get a bonus, too, for preventing Genachowski from “reclassifying” broadband services, which would have opened a whole new can of worms for the telcos.)
But because the ISPs won’t be able to set up express lanes with toll booths anymore — not kosher, per net neutrality regulations — they’re going to have to find growth somewhere. And it’s going to come directly from your pocket now.
As online video — via sites like Netflix and Apple’s iTunes — becomes more popular, it’s adding more cost to the ISP business, without adding more revenue.
So the ISPs will have to find their revenue growth by getting rid of all-you-can-eat broadband access, which millions of Americans have enjoyed for more than a decade, and by starting to charge Internet users by how much bandwidth they consume.
If it’s priced in a way that’s not offensive, this seems fair. That’s how you pay for electricity, heating and cooking gas, and water, so why shouldn’t it be the way you pay for Internet access?
But we get the sense that people just aren’t going to like it. Too many people think they should be able to get everything they want on the Internet for free. So it’s probably going to get ugly, and it could take a long time to roll out.
But let’s face it, it’s inevitable: Your all-you-can-eat Internet plan is likely going to be history. And if you watch a lot of Netflix and Hulu online, your Internet bill is probably going to go up substantially.
Just because online video is the future, doesn’t mean it’s going to be cheap.
* We’re still not convinced that net neutrality — government regulation — is necessary, or a good idea. More here: Here’s What’s Missing From All The Net Neutrality Blather: Nothing Bad Is Going To Happen If Net Neutrality Dies
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