It’s very simple. Once we have lost Net neutrality and the access providers are given a free hand to charge Internet companies for delivering their bits faster and more reliably than their competitors’ bits, we will experience this simply as how the Internet works, not as an artificial constraint put in to benefit the access providers.
With so little competition, the access providers will be able to jack up fast lane prices as high as the richest players in the market can bear. So, let’s say Google decides to pay the access providers for “fast lane” service, but Bing does not. You’ll notice that Google results fly in, while Bing seems to be having trouble digesting its oatmeal. You won’t know if that’s because Bing’s search engine is slower or because it didn’t pony up for fast lane service. All you’ll know is that you’re not going back to Bing.
So, what’s the problem? The first is that this raises the hurdle to innovation. You have a great new search engine? You won’t be able to get started competing against Google and Bing without being able to afford the fast lane services they can buy. The big companies will always be able to buy faster service. This encourages the sort of consolidation that would have forestalled the most interesting success stories of the Net so far.
Second, the access providers are also providers of services and content that compete with the organizations they serve. So, Comcast will undoubtedly find economic advantage in making sure that Comcast-NBC content shoulders aside Netflix’s offerings … and your offerings on YouTube. You’ll prefer using the video service that doesn’t suck…not knowing that removing Net neutrality’s economic point is to introduce artifical suckage onto the Internet.
Market forces won’t correct the loss of Net neutrality because the market won’t experience its bad consequences as consequences at all. This is a predictable market weakness. It is why we need to regulate the access providers. It is why we need Net neutrality.