Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway. What if we paid for our roads per mile that we drove? It would be fair and understandable to charge more for someone who drives more. But one of the most wonderful things in our current life is getting in the car and driving anywhere we feel like at this moment, and with no accounting for cost. You just get in your car and go. This is one of the most popular themes of our life and even our popular music. It's a type of freedom from some concerns that makes us happy and not complain. The roads are already paid for. You rarely hear people complain that roads are "free." The government shines when it comes to having provided us pathways to drive around our country. We don't think of the roadways as being negative like telecommunication carriers. It's a rare breath of fresh air.
I knew I liked the guy.
Everyone keeps saying that the recent FCC rulings were a step in the right direction because they put some regulations in place where there previously were none. Here’s what I have to say:
Yes, it’s a small step in the right direction. But, in all likelihood, this is the best we’ll ever get, and it’s not good enough. The Obama administration and the current Congress are the most “progressive” we’ve seen in a decade, and this year’s elections indicate that they’re probably also the most progressive government we’ll see for the next decade. It’s impossible to deny that the Internet is going mobile at a rapid (and ever-increasing) pace. Explicitly excluding the mobile data providers from neutrality regulations is, at best, an incredibly negligent decision.
The incoming Republican Congress has already threatened to legislate a repeal of the new neutrality rules. Comcast is currently assaulting Level 3 in a blatant violation of Internet peering tradition. Mobile operators are trying to extort cash from Apple and Facebook in retaliation for the huge spike in data usage they’ve caused, and they’re already entertaining seminars on tiered pricing and per-application fees from enterprising startups looking to jump into what looks to be the brave new world of unregulated mobile Internet service.
Does anyone really see this trend stopping itself, let alone reversing? We’re speeding down the road to an Internet where you have to pay for each and every different site and application you use. An Internet that looks like cable television, or the telephone network before Bell AT&T got broken up.
Internet access providers can and must be treated and regulated as utilities, or the United States will be in a sorry state of affairs when simple economics force the web industry out into countries where you won’t get charged simply to get your foot in the door of a consumer ISP’s network.
The Woz said it best himself:
When I'm asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to "sign on" with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I'm a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
The Obama administration and the FCC need to act now to stop this, or it will be too late.