People hate wireless carriers in the United States. With a fiery passion. In fact, they’re the least-liked industry in the country, followed closely by big oil and cable/satellite providers. Considering how much money we give them, it’s not hard to understand why. Tiered data, for example, has absolutely enraged a lot of people.
AT&T has heard from many of its customers that tiered data basically makes it prohibitively expensive to do things like stream Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, etc. on a regular basis. And now it’s hearing from some of those companies, like Netflix, that they’d like this to change. So, AT&T wants to have companies like Netflix pay it in exchange for providing unlimited access to those services through its network.
Predictably, a great many people have drug out the “net neutrality” flag and started waving it frantically.
This isn’t a net neutrality issue in any technical sense – none whatsoever. The carrier is not prioritizing, blocking, throttling, or otherwise physically impeding your access to specific content. Sorry. Like many things in America, it’s a “I don’t want to pay more money for something I don’t think I should have to” issue.
If Netflix strikes a deal with AT&T, and decides it wants you to pay extra for mobile streaming on your phone, that’s Netflix’s choice – it has little to do with AT&T at that point, only in the sense that they’re financially incentivizing this for Netflix. Spotify already charges a premium for mobile access. Hell, Amazon requires you to buy a separate piece of hardware to stream Instant Video on a mobile device.
I think the scenario we’ll see unfold is pretty simple. These “value-added” bonuses on carriers will become incentives to subscribe, while services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify will start to specifically monetize and tier mobile subscriptions / access. Carriers will just be forced to compete for your business on a new level, and subscription-based services will want you to pay money to access them from your phone. We’re moving to a service-oriented world on the mobile web, and honestly, I don’t see a problem with it.
This “it’s the 1990’s internet all over again” garbage that keeps getting spewed is becoming tedious. This has nothing to do with the “open internet,” or the right to access information – it has to do with people doing what they always do: bitching about the prospect of paying more money for something they want.
Call me when AT&T starts redirecting you from Wikipedia to Bing, then we’ll talk about “net neutrality.” Until then, this is business as usual. Which is to say, business.