Technology Review weighs in on the net neutrality issue, making the excellent point that Web 2.0 applications depend on the fact that users don't pay extra to Comcast or AT&T to be able to upload great reams of bytes.
With the net neutrality issue before Congress, the cable and telecommunications companies are mounting a classic "land grab" effort. They want to create a system where bits from companies that agree to pay a toll, essentially, will be given preferred delivery status. Ed Whitacre, CEO of the newly merged AT&T and SBC, laid out his opposition to codifying net neutrality in BusinessWeek magazine in November: "I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital [on fiber lines] and we have to have a return on it."
The argument that these companies should be able to recoup their significant capital expenditures is not without merit. However, they're already doing so in many ways by venturing into markets that weren't available to them until they put down the fiber. Telephone companies are now offering television packages. Cable companies now provide digital cable services and sell On Demand movies. What's more, consumers already pay to use these companies' pipes via the monthly bill we receive. Any additional fees charged to a Microsoft or Yahoo will undoubtedly be picked up by the consumer.
But there's a darker possibility ahead if the cable and telco companies succeed in blocking specific "net neutrality" language in the revised Telecommunications Act. A company could conceivably hamper delivery of content that doesn't meet its standards of decency, doesn't share its chairman's political outlook, or doesn't originate from a site owned by its network of media sites. Why would Comcast -- a company that gleans the majority of its revenues selling cable television service to consumers -- want to give those consumers equal access to sites such as YouTube, where a treasure trove of free videos is there for the taking?One of the most exciting things happening online -- the crux of the Web 2.0 movement -- is the burgeoning of content created by individuals. Sites such as YouTube, the blog explosion (one in five people in the United States regularly reads a blog, according to Nielsen NetRatings), photo-sharing sites like Flickr, and the nascent podcast community -- all got their start or get their content from individuals. The majority of those individuals would probably stop contrib