Democracy & Technology Blog Net neutrality: part 38…Talk about degrading service…

Maybe Google should look to old-economy providers of rich content to find actual examples of content degradation. It seems Netflix, the popular postal purveyor of DVDs, has been using “fairness algorithms” to slow the mailing of DVDs to its most voracious customers. High volume customers impose higher postal costs on Netflix, which charges a flat fee for all users. Low volume customers are more profitable. Netflix now spells out this policy in its service agreement so customers know what they’re getting. Seems reasonable enough. Google and other online content companies have been fretting over the figment of online service blockages and degradation, though no one can seem to find any actual examples. Here’s an example of a content company degrading itself because it found customers taking advantage of its business model and platform. Google better look in the mirror for examples of how other companies and individuals might exploit Google’s platform, and what Google’s response might be. Otherwise the “net neutrality” laws Google thinks it wants to govern the Internet could come back to bite — hard.
-Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson is a Senior Fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute, where he researches technology and economics and contributes to the Disco-Tech blog. He is currently writing a book on the abundance of the world economy, focusing on the Chinese boom and developing a new concept linking economics and information theory. Swanson writes frequently for the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on topics ranging from broadband communications to monetary policy.