Tapping into the local buzz on ‘net neutrality’ ruling

by January 19, 2014
Internet open sign

Photo: Blaise Alleyne

We all know those topics or fields, like “supply chain logistics” and “corporate governance” that due to their unfortunate nomenclature, start the eyes glazing over before the final syllable is typed.  Which is a shame, because they and many other boring-sounding matters actually can be the source of some compelling stories.

Same with “net neutrality,” which has bubbled to the surface in the past few days following a widely-criticized federal appeals court ruling last week.  In a nutshell, the court’s decision would allow internet service providers (ISPs) to favor certain websites over others, for a monetary consideration, of course. It’s a complicated topic that’s difficult to digest, assimilate and write about on short notice; here are some shortcuts and ideas for you:

Here’s an explainer from CNN; note that most major providers have said they’ll hold off on changes for now; most analysts expect the Federal Communications Commission to appeal the court’s ruling.  And here’s a “why you should care” piece from CNET; it makes the point that one theoretical outcome of net non-neutrality is that apps providers and others who serve the mobile market might pay more for the privilege; that generates new lines of biz for the broadband providers but larger costs throw up more obstacles for start-ups and small businesses…and eventually to consumers. Here’s an editorial from the online publication Mobile Marketer with some thoughts from that industry, and  a piece from The Hill’s technology blog about how losing net-neutrality could put the dorm-room startups that make Silicon Valley legends out of business.

Obviously you can start to localize the story by obtaining your local provider(s) statement on the matter.  Next stop should probably be trade organizations that represent small business, online sellers, gaming companies, telecommunications providers and really just about any company making a mobile push with its marketing and branding strategy.  Get in touch with the tech incubators in local economic development corridors and at area universities (where you might find some public policy experts to expound, as well).

It’s clear that TV content is becoming less important than the internet service these companies sell, which explains the greater focus on monetizing bandwidth.  One of Canada’s cable operators is shifting its strategy and beefing up Internet offerings.  That’s an angle you can localizing by requesting an update on subscriber figures, marketing efforts, infrastructure & product plans, comparison of revenue streams from TV, internet and phone lines of business and so forth from the companies that provide cable and Internet to your audience.

Also note the Globe and Mail story refers to this recent (PDF) report from Deloitte, which bucks conventional wisdom by suggesting that the number of homes with multiple pay-TV subscriptions is growing.  If you are doing a personal finance sidebar about media spending by households, it might be interesting to talk with consumers about the pros and cons of paying for multiple services.