Yesterday, news was released once again that another internet provider, Time Warner Cable, is charging Netflix for streaming video to Time Warner’s customers. This adds to those already charging, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

The Past

Let’s start with assumptions. First, you subscribe to internet. Second, you subscribe to Netflix. The story begins…
Every time you go onto Netflix and watch a TV show or movie, you are consuming big bandwidth. The higher HD quality, the more bandwidth you use. In fact, in March 2014, Netflix accounted for 34% of all downstream usage during primetime hours. We are talking big-time traffic here.

Now, you pay your internet provider for a certain speed. Of course, the internet provider doesn’t add all these up together and get a big-big-big pipe. They guess at the biggest amount used at one time and go from there. They are charged for that pretty-big pipe. Well, because many people are streaming Netflix, they all the sudden need a larger and faster pipe. In the past, this would be included in the price on your monthly bill.

Today

Because so many people are streaming through this small pipe, the overall quality on Netflix goes down. What is your assumption? Ugg, Netflix. Get your act together! Well, in reality, it is because your internet provider does not have a big or fast enough pipe. Because people perceive it is Netflix, Netflix talks with the internet provider and says you need to speed up your stuff! Well, the internet provider turns around and says, sure, we will, but for a cost! Netflix caves, otherwise it loses customers, and then creates a “direct interconnection” between Netflix servers and the internet provider, solving the problem.

Future and why this is bad

So at first it seems like this is not so bad. Make those people using Netflix pay for that additional speed they are using! Here is where it becomes a slippery slope.

How many cable TV channels do you watch? The average is 8%. Do you want to pay for all the other ones? Are there channels you would like, but are only available in a higher-price package? This is what could happen. Charter Communications, I will take the “Standard” internet package, which includes Amazon.com, Wikipedia.org, Target.com and Bremer.com. I guess that means I won’t get Walmart.com, Google.com, Ebay.com…

OK, a different example. Let’s say you shop at Amazon.com. You are using Charter Communications in Willmar and they have one of these “deals” with Amazon. Going to Amazon’s website is quick, fast and great. But, now you want to shop at Target.com. They don’t have a “deal” with them. So, Target’s website is put on the lowest priority. It is slow, and maybe unreachable. Because Amazon decided to pay, but Target didn’t, they get a better experience.

Lets go local. Take Best Buy and Firebytes. Best Buy pays Charter to keep the pipe open and fast. Unfortunately for Firebytes (me), I can’t afford to pay Charter this cost. So now, anyone who is trying to reach my company is getting degraded service, but my competitor is flying high.

The End

Overall, the internet was created to be a place where anyone could get information and nothing would be treated above another. Going down this path, we are doing exactly the opposite. The FCC has been debating Net Neutrality for years and still can’t come up with a good solution. If you feel passionate about this, I encourage you to file your comments with the FCC under proceeding 14-28 “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.” http://www.fcc.gov/comments

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