Whether you have to write a check to your internet provider when you search on Google, connect on Facebook or send an email will be decided today when the FCC votes on Free-Internet.
Verizon, At&t and other internet providers insist they should have the ability to block internet content. Many believe they want this ability so they can charge you to view websites that have always been available for free.
Strong evidence for this was provided to wired magazine this week when a presentation delivered by a 3rd party to Vodaphone was leaked to wire by a “trusted source.” The presentation was about a product that will meter your internet use like the gas company meters your electricity; complete with sample prices for popular websites such as Google, Facebook, Youtube and many others.
The FCC has defended Free-Internet in the past and maintained a policy of net-neutrality. However, todays vote could lead to the FCC giving the ok for pricing models based on usage and give wireless networks the ability to block content.
Here are some of the potential implications of the vote for consumers and publishers, especially as it applies to wireless.
In terms of tiered pricing, Verizon has already begun charging this way on their new 4g network released earlier this month. $50 for the first 5gb of usage and $10 for each additional gigabyte. Unless you don’t happen to use the entire 5gb in a month, in which case you will be charged $50 because the calender changed. It is murky whether this represents a monthly plan or a data usage plan. It’s basically heads I win, tails you lose.
This is like the second line for rides at Disney World for people who pay more. In stark contrast to past policy which guaranteed equal access.
Wireless companies would have you believe that charging this way is no different from how a utility company charges for electricity or water.
But water companies do not have pricing plans for high quality and low quality water supplies. They do not provide 2 lines, where those who pay more are delivered water faster. They do not block access to water supplies.
Also, it is expected that the discrimination and content blocking rules applied to wired networks will not be applied to wireless carriers. This will allow Verizon, At&t and others to block access to Google or Facebook or any other site. Or more likely to charge for it.
The ability to block content and block access to content will allow wireless providers to control how information is shared over the internet on a wireless network. When you consider that Verizon 4g is already as fast as standard wired connection, it is easy to imagine that this is the way most of us will access the internet in the not to distant future. Just like we went from Dial-up to Broadband. Only this time our access will be carefully monitored, metered and in some cases denied.
Whether information wants to be free or wants to be expensive will be decided today.