Uncle Sam Says: Thumbs Down on Net Neutrality

Yesterday, the Department Of Justice (DOJ) issued comments rejecting any Net Neutrality proposals. They are clearly siding with keeping an open economy, where the broadband providers are not controlled or regulated in any manner. DOJ says this viewpoint ultimately helps the consumers, who may then elect their preferred level of service.

Yet other consumer proponents say that's what Neutrality does too, by enabling equal access to all online services. When Congress floated Neutrality legislation earlier this year, the main point was to keep services consistent and open. Also it didn't burden the online content providers and publishers, who might be affected by additional toll-roads.

Who's right? As consumers, our broadband fees finance light and heavy users alike. It's nicer to get what you pay for, and vice versa. However, it's going to be hard to convince me that anyone saves money in a tiered environment. We all seem to have opportunities to pay higher tiered fees instead, much like cable or satellite bills.

If paid tiers were introduced, then they would negatively impact organic and paid search outcomes. First, searchers could find a range of gated or restricted search results, depending on access levels. Second, publishers with heavy-bandwidth requirements could experience large dips in traffic and paid search revenues. Finally, some of the larger advertisers might end up adjusting their buys, further hitting the paid search economy.

I wish the Net Neutrality debate boiled down to something this simple: free economy or free access. However, it's really about many different lobbies at this point, and I don't believe that legislation or regulation is going to progress quickly. Though the DOJ filing does prove there are high stakes here.