Opinion: End of net neutrality — license to print money | Opinion | DW | 15.12.2017
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Opinion

Opinion: End of net neutrality — license to print money

So far, all data on the internet has had to be transported on an equal footing, above all at the same speed. In the US, that will change. Jörg Brunsmann asks why politicians are making it so cheap for providers.

I can understand internet providers. For the last quarter of a century or so, they have been building and maintaining data highways and have created an overarching infrastructure.

And why watch enviously while your customers use it to earn money hand over fist, when at the same time you yourself could quickly and easily earn a lot of money with an internet that worked at different speeds?

It is understandable that the providers are pushing for a little piece of the sumptuous pie from Google, Amazon, Apple and others, although I don't think it's good. The internet, which has quickly made a few people very rich, also makes them greedy.

License to print money

What I don't understand is why the US administration is prepared to sell off its cutting edge so cheaply. For providers, eliminating net neutrality is a license to print money. They will be able to earn several billion dollars more, without actually having to work for it. And that would have been a great opportunity for politicians finally to intervene in a defining way. Instead, they will let things run their course — which does not bode well for customers.

Will the end of net neutrality lead to a better and faster network expansion? No — because the "premium internet" only works if there are perceptibly different network speeds. Only the data jam makes the fast lane, which is subject to a fee, attractive. Here it would have been up to politicians to set binding standards.

The end of the internet as we know it

DW editor Jörg Brunsmann (DW/Christel Becker-Rau)

DW's Jörg Brunsmann

Will providers be allowed to deliberately slow down certain data, just to make the "premium" customer believe that they are actually getting added value? And what about neutrality toward customers?

It is conceivable that in future there will be particularly cheap internet connections on offer, sponsored, among others, by Amazon and Facebook. Connections, which will then only allow the data of these companies to pass through: No shopping provider except Amazon, no news pages outside Facebook.

Here too, politicians should have intervened if they wanted to retain something from the old ideal of the internet. Because the goal was for the internet to be an ideal, global network through which everyone could communicate and exchange knowledge with each other on equal terms.

Farewell "ideal" internet!

It's hardly imaginable that the US administration under Donald Trump would actually reflect on these ideals and take action accordingly. Trump has done his business buddies a favor and also enforced a decision that his predecessor Obama tried to prevent. That alone makes it worthwhile to him. But the internet is taking its next step as an instrument of turbo-capitalism, and thus moving away from the ideal behind its creation.

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