April 12, 2010, 11:39 PM — Argue what you will, but the Internet was designed to be an open highway, an autobahn for information exchange. You went faster (e.g. had less latency) from the size of the pipe you bought. The invention of the web was designed to be a freely accessible web of inter-linked information. Now, entertainment moguls have hijacked its purpose and its delivery system.
When the US 9th Circuit Court agreed with Comcast that the FCC had no jurisdiction to make net neutrality policy, it removed a long-time injunction. That injunction stated that you bought bandwidth, and did with it, whatever you wanted to. If an application was piggish in its datacom needs, the throttle was the size of the next pipe's ability to deliver. Now, ISPs have carte blanche to slow down one vendor's application while permitting free reign of their own, or of their partners.
This means that Xfinity/Comcast could slow down Roku or Hulu in favor of their own digital delivery system. Verizon's wireless broadband links could favor VCast over say, something from iTunes. If you use a filesharing protocol, illegally or legally, expect your use and participation to be radically reduced, and fast. This will please intellectual property owners to no end, but will also thwart various completely legal data repositories that are exchanged over services like torrents. The caps are bogus in other ways, as there's no vetting of congestion, maintenance traffic due to routing problems, and other traffic that all adds up to what's inside your data consumption in a cap -- and therefore your bill.
Expect to pay more for unfettered pipes, if and when they're available. Already heretofore unknown per-monthly caps are appearing, almost as fast as new online video sources. The carriers clearly don't like Google/YouTube/iTunes riding 'their' wires for free. In the old days, utilities were a public resource, but in this highly for-profit utility era, it's all about gouging revenues. I'm reminded of RyanAir's desire to charge for using the restroom on some of their flights, or the $45/bag charge on Spirit Airlines -- for carry-on luggage. When and where does it all stop? Will crowd-sourcing protests do the trick or will we get billed for that, too?
Broadband policy will be effected. Clearly there's more money to be made, so ostensibly broadband network build-outs will get more funding. Or will they? What was once a desire to break up AT&T has lead to a reappearance of their logo, a conglomerate of old 'Baby Bell's' now under the aegis and lipstick of Southwestern Bell. Verizon was once Nynex, New England Bell, and so on. Choices are actually diminishing, not expanding.
If I sound dour, it's because of the death of an old friend, the Internet. Now it's a consumer entertainment vehicle, where services pay a toll, customers pay a toll, States pay a toll, and everyone's a little poorer, because freedom was shot dead. Reviving net neutrality by the US Congress will be difficult. There is no consumer broadband lobby. Indeed the International Telecommunications Association that I was a member of a decade ago is essentially dead, leaving no user-based industrial contingent to battle the telcos and carriers. They, too, were victims, in my opinion, of telco and carrier pressure. Divide, conquer. Works every time.