Proponents of net neutrality are aghast today, upon learning two separate revelations.
The first involves the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK), a large broadcasting conglomerate and NextGenTel, a network service provider. This past June, NextGenTel apparently wanted to charge customers such as NRK, a premium rate based upon the bandwidth they used â€“ i.e., NGT would prioritize traffic based upon variable pricing. And although the story is not entirely clear how regulated the marketplace is, public outcry resulted in a redaction of this new policy — which net neutrality proponents now consider a victory.
The other story takes place in the computer entertainment world of hard-core gamers. A new connection service from GameRail, an ISP, has been unveiled and will be deployed across 7 large cities in the coming months. In short, in exchange for a relatively higher price, the ISP will offer gamers access to relatively low-latency pipes (or “tubes”). And according to comments on Digg – many of whom promote net neutrality – this consumer-demanded service is simply irresponsible, unethical and down-right criminal.
What proponents of net neutrality fail to see is that while the electrons along the wires and photons throughout the fibers may all technically contain the same “product,” the transportation mechanism (the medium) through which they travel is a finite resource.
Why are these proponents not boycotting and picketing USPS, FedEx or UPS for their variable pricing? After all, each of these firms charge different prices to travel the same exact route at different speeds, which is exactly what an ISP does.
The moral of this story ties into a recent piece from economist Michael Munger. He notes that, “For political decisions, ‘good’ simply means what most people think is good, and everyone has to accept the same thing. In markets, the good is decided by individuals, and we each get what we choose.”
Fortunately for consumers, ISPs can still discriminate and charge varying rates dependent on how each of us chooses to use the service. For those who want to download or stream large files, they will simply have to pay more than those who use it less. It is not criminal, it is simply a matter of supply and demand.