Monday, June 09, 2014

Paper in heart of the Great Plains says rural areas should keep an eye on Internet neutrality fight

Internet neutrality has been a hot topic of late, with some saying it won't create online equality at all, and others saying it will destroy small media entrepreneurs.  But what is it and how does it have to do with rural America?  The McCook Daily Gazette, which covers southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas, does a good job explaining the issue in a recent editorial.

"The Internet remained a novelty until lower costs, higher capabilities and widespread availability made it almost a given for American households," the Gazette writes. "Along came Netflix, which decided there was a better way to distribute movies than by mailing DVDs, but used up a lot of Internet space in the process. But that was OK under 'net neutrality,' which forced Internet service providers to treat Netflix the same way it treats Facebook posts, tweets and emails from your sister."
"Internet providers say Netflix slows down their networks, which is what causes movies to sometimes lag," the Gazette writes. "With extra fees, they argue, the electronic pipeline could be improved for heavy users like Netflix. Netflix has responded, during slow downloads, by flashing a message 'The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback.'" Verison and other network operators don't like being blamed.

Net neutrality "could have unintended consequences here in the hinterlands, where customers are relatively few and far between and providing broadband services at all is still an issue in some localities," the Gazette warns. "Some communities have gotten into the act, stringing fiber-optic lines to every home or setting up city-wide, publicly owned 'mesh' networks to provide service for all."

"Like everything involved in delivering a product and service, the cost of providing more bandwidth will be passed on to the consumer," the newspaper concludes. "But with more and more of us depending on fast Internet access in our daily lives, even in Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas, the net neutrality argument bears watching." (Read more)

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