Australia may not have Net Neutrality but the NBN rollout opens the door to revisit what we do have to confirm it is in the public interest.
If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is or are surprised to learn that Australia does not have it then you should probably keep reading.
Here is the wikipedia explanation which captures Net Neutrality pretty simply:
“Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”
More simply, your message is just as important as anyone else’s on the internet and this becomes increasingly important as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.
The very fact that there are lobby groups in the USA seeking to remove the principle of Net Neutrality sounds warning bells to me.
For mine, this is quite possibly bigger than any other single issue we have at the moment because in some ways our freedom to get our message published and read on the internet indirectly impacts all other issues as well.
The recent cuts to the ABC and job losses make this more important because if TV and Radio decline, an increasing reliance on social media fills the void arises as the only place to have a voice.
I would dearly love to see 4 Corners do a story on the subject of Net Neutrality (hint hint).
The topic is known about but it is just not flagging because we are so used to the service levels we get in Australia. 94.5 FBI radio in Sydney captured the subject matter really well in their interview with Brad Lorge if you want more background:
So what does this mean? Well if we are not careful we are at real risk of our ability to rally via social media being cut from under us.
Communication is like a competition. A competition to get your message out be it first or in fast response to claims made by others about you. If your message is coming out at dial-up speeds while your competitor is moving via optic cable then you are going to lose audience purely because of impatience.
My business is increasingly online (as many micro businesses owners are) and having requisite speed on the internet is a must. To remove this puts the large companies at a significant advantage because if my access is delayed or worse still access to my content isdelayed, then my audience will simply move on to something else and my message will never be received.
The key gripe of the telcos is that they invest significantly in infrastructure but are unable to stop new entrants piggy backing of their platform and hence why the advocate having a user pays system. The more you pay, the better your service levels (or so the theory goes).
I am not a fan of this ethos that by simply paying more you get better service. Very quickly the base level become sub standard and you are paying premium just to get adequate service levels.
I recently got into a debate online with Telstra in relation to why my broadband was inexplicably slow not withstanding the multitude of accounts I had with them.
I was told to look into a booster which infers you must absorb substandard speeds unless you pay a premium to get adequate ones. [The base level price should at least work without needing add ons in my opinion but that perhaps that is just me].
The internet is the last battleground where the very small business owner can have an equal footing with the larger players. People prefer to follow people , not large faceless brands but if it becomes slow to follow selected people because some ISP provider or the Government decides to depriotise them then the knock on effects could be significant for all of us going forward but especially for people yet to be born let alone venture online.
Much of the Australian debate centres around equal access to sports, movies or other entertainment related items. For me the far bigger issue is one of getting your message heard if you are short on money but long on passion for a worthy cause.
The biggest fear is the subject matter being considered to technical, boring or both to maintain our ever increasingly short attention spans.
John Oliver got it right when his satirical look at explaining Net Neutrality to his american viewers afforded millions of views and has even resulted in a bill being introduced to the Senate to address some of the concerns.
I have some further reading below but you can see the comical look at this video covering the Verizon ruling which was the subject sparked John Oliver’s report last year (warning contains some swearing):