"What if the Internet were like cable television, with Web sites grouped like channels into either basic or premium offerings? What if a few big companies decided which sites loaded quickly and which ones slowly, or not at all, on your computer?"
That's what some of the Internet Service Providers would like to do. Their legal ability to do so is a little up in the air since many of them use Ma Bell's infrastructure to carry their data and that may or not make them a "common carrier." So far ISPs are generally not considered common carriers, but if they push the issue by doing some very uncommon-carrier things like this tiering scheme, that may change.
As a libertarian, the only thing that draws my ire here is that this tiered network would be built on top of a largely taxpayer funded infrastructure. If they were doing this on a privately funded infrastructure, I'd have no problem with this from a political standpoint.
As a compter user, it bothers me that sites who are not in the business of making a profit would be relegated to poor performance. And according to current studies, the Internet is used primarily for social networking. How much of that will cough up the dough for top tier access? Also, what will happen to smaller regions. For example, suppose Amamzon really wants to be a top tier site but can't afford to be top tier everywhere. They're going to pay for top tier in the big markets and settle for bottom tier in the smaller markets. Now the ISP users in those smaller markets are getting fleeced because they're paying for an Internet service that doesn't provide any of the "services" they would like at a decent bandwidth.
As a consumer, it angers me that ISPs are trying to make money at both ends. Now a site that wants a top tier status has to pay for their own server hosting and they have to pay every single ISP on top of that for top shelf service. And that top tier site is going to pass those costs along to me.
What are your thoughts on the issue?