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An Update on The Battle for Net Neutrality




A last month, I wrote a blog post about the current Internet battle over net neutrality. At that time, “Team Internet” was trolling websites and making petitions to end “Team Cable’s” movement to make an open market Internet, where companies can charge more for faster speeds. After a significant battle, Cable companies backed off that fight—but now the debate has spread to mobile Internet.

As the Wall Street Journal article above outlines, most people now access the Internet on-the-go as well as at home. Mobile service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are adapting, finding their own ways to extract money without taxing the customer. Multiple wireless companies are now offering sponsored data plans, which have specific companies pay the data charge when customers use their app, and the customers are not charged. “There’s no difference in speeds based on whether the data is sponsored or not sponsored. If a company pays for (its subscribers) mobile data, I don’t see how that affects net neutrality,” said DataMi CEO Harjot Saluja. Wireless providers have found a wrinkle in the net neutrality battle and initial trials of sponsored plans have been very successful.

This issue directly relates INFO 2040 and the networks we discuss in class. First off, the Internet is one giant network, and it creates thousands of subnetworks among its users, with purposes ranging from education to social media. This specific example of sponsored data plans may even increase the size of those networks because it is likely to provide readily available mobile Internet to many people who have previously been unable to afford it.

But more interesting to me is the power struggle between Team Internet, Team Cable and the wireless service providers. Team Internet and Team Cable have created polar rivalry, showing the two sides as enemies. The wireless providers see how Team Internet was unsuccessful in applying super speed Internet at a price, and found an original revenue stream (with sponsored data plans) that does not harm the customer. This allows the wireless companies to maintain the revenue stream, while staying in the good graces of Team Internet and promoting net neutrality. This may not be exactly the same as previous bargaining relationships we have discussed in class because the wireless companies are providing a different product than Team Internet, but there are still three players, financial surplus and partners and enemies in negotiation.


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