American ISPs can now cripple data from certain sites
America recently overturned its Net Neutrality laws. Now their ISPs are allowed to de-prioritise or cripple the flow of data from certain sites.
For example, Comcast (America’s biggest ISP) could choose to slow down shows from Netflix (the world’s biggest streaming TV/movies provider). This would make Netflix shows unwatchable. Alternatively, Comcast could charge Netflix a fee – a ransom – to NOT slow its shows.
Think it won’t happen?
It sounds outlandish, I know. But if you don’t believe it could happen, then why did Netflix recently sign a deal with Comcast to directly connect to its network? Is it simply because they want to improve video quality for customers? Or is it because Comcast was slowing their shows, and was demanding a ransom? (Remember, slow shows would mean the death of Netflix.) Here’s a graph showing how slow Netflix downloads had gotten. Then Netflix and Comcast started negotiating, culminating in a signed deal on Feb 23, 2014, and whatdyaknow? Original speeds and more!
How does this affect Australia?
We don’t even have Net Neutrality laws here. In other words, the big corporations don’t even have a specific law they have to overturn before they can do what America’s doing.
So what’s to stop them? Corporate fair-mindedness? *Ahem*… Not likely! The ACCC? Maybe. Just like they stop petrol stations from jacking up fuel prices before a long weekend! ;-(
Then why hasn’t it happened already? I suspect there’s just not enough financial incentive for the big players to start playing ugly. Yet…
If Australia signs the TPP, it’ll happen here too
If our government ratifies the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Australian internet scene will change dramatically. Because under the TPP, foreign corporations would be able to sue the Australian government if we do things that impede their expected profits.
Picture this scenario…
- News Corp is an American company.
- It owns 50% of Australia’s FOXTEL.
- And FOXTEL recently announced plans to become an ISP.
- Now, what if News Corp decides it wants the FOXTEL ISP to de-prioritise or slow traffic from other IPTV providers (e.g. QickFlix)? What would happen?
If the ACCC blocks it, News Corp could claim we’re impeding their profits, and sue the Australian government. For millions! That being the case, do you think the Australian government will want the ACCC to step in? Not likely.
Or this scenario…
- Let’s say Netflix decides to enter the Australian market.
- They offer to pay all our ISPs to prioritise all Netflix traffic.
- Of course the ISPs would take them up on the offer.
- Then all the other big content providers would do the same, so their content isn’t effectively de-prioritised.
We’ve already established the ACCC won’t step in. So who’d be left out in the cold? The small content providers with no budget. Small businesses, political lobby groups, community groups, bloggers, churches, local sporting associations, musicians, and so on.
In other words, we’ll only be able to quickly download content from providers with money. Content from providers without money will be slow, frustrating, and prone to timeouts.
The differences might be subtle at first. But the gap will widen. Like any other gap between rich and poor. Eventually only big business will bother providing content on the web, because internet users (customers, readers, viewers) will find everyone else’s content too slow, flaky and frustrating to load. Then we’ll have the big business internet, and the level playing field will be gone.
Is this the vision you had for the internet?
It’s not what I had in mind. If it’s not what you want either, then please write to your local MP demanding that they cease involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Here’s a sample letter you can adapt.
And March in March. Thousands of people around Australia are joining a ‘march of no confidence’, on March 15-17, to tell the Coalition government they’ve had enough of secrecy and broken promises, of policies for the rich and powerful. To hold them to account. Marches are being held in dozens of cities and towns. Find a march near you…
Or if you don’t have time to do either, please sign this petition.