A recent deal between Comcast and Netflix has sparked tons of controversy in the mainstream media. Netflix has started paying Comcast to provide greater bandwidth to the service, which will result in clearer quality streams and a better experience overall. So why is this bad? Things get a little rocky when we look at the future of how things will work from here on out. If Comcast and other cable companies like Verizon and AT&T will favor services for more money, then what happens to the services that can’t pay? What happens to services that compete with these companies? Here’s an example: on Android phones there is an app for Google Wallet, but AT&T and Verizon blocked users from having access to it in the store because of their investment in ISIS, a competitor to Google’s wallet. AT&T has been trying to incorporate internet packages similar to the kind you get on your TV: a sports package to access ESPN, or an entertainment one for Netflix and YouTube, or maybe a social one for Facebook and Twitter. These pay-to-play plans could very well be the downfall of internet service. And what’s it all about? Money.
Internet service providers don’t care about providing their users with the best service they can; they care about making money. America is one of the worst countries when it comes to internet speeds and accessibility. Most places in Europe have significantly faster internet speeds with a lot more freedom. Why? There’s more competition. In America, you’ve got Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon as the three big internet providers. And that’s it. The rest of them got wiped out when cable replaces DSL. And AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon act very much like they do when they provide cell coverage: they work better in specific regions. So basically, they all make their claim in certain regions and stay out of each other’s territory for the most part, so there’s no competition and, therefore, no innovation. After all, has cable really changed that much since 2004? No. You still get HD boxes that cost more than SD ones, even though most people own an HDTV. You still get crap On Demand services instead of Netflix just being integrated. We have a free market society:
COMPETITION DRIVES INNOVATION.
Cable companies are still making money off of us because we don’t have any other options. We’re trapped in this cage of crappy, slow internet service and money-stealing schemes for internet access. I’m not saying the internet is a right that we deserve for free—I’m fine with paying for it, but we shouldn’t be capped at a certain number of GBs on our phones when there are thousands of satellites in the sky. And we definitely shouldn’t have caps and data packages at home—after all isn’t the point of paying for the internet to be able to use it?
The only salvation that we have is Google Fiber—a service the company is (extremely slowly) rolling out to new markets. The purpose of Fiber is to compete directly with the aforementioned ISPs with its insanely fast 1GB download speeds. Fiber isn’t a major thing in every metropolitan area like Comcast or Verizon, but it is easily stealing customers in the areas it does exist. It’s cheap, fast, and full of free access. Maybe, if we’re lucky, Google can force the hand of other ISPs to lower rates or provide better service at the risk of losing customers. But with the extremely slow rollout, it may be some time before we see significant change.