Net neutrality ruling ripples felt in Des Moines
Published on January 21st, 2014 | by Josh Hafner
Young professionals in Des Moines’ technology scene called a major court decision last week on net neutrality out of touch and a wake-up call to Iowans who use the Web.
A federal appeals court on Jan. 14 ruled that Internet providers like Mediacom or CenturyLink can strike deals enabling services like Amazon or Hulu to pay to deliver their services faster to customers. The decision scrapped Federal Communications Commission rules meant to maintain equal delivery of all Internet content.
Ankeny software engineer Derek Brooks described the decision as a “frustrating” one that could lead to preferential treatment from Internet providers and less choices for Internet users.
“That’s not how the Internet was built,” said Brooks, a coding wiz who built online tools for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. “It was built so that everyone could connect to it and have access to the same stuff.”
Some analysts predicted last week that stream-heavy sites like Netflix may wind up with new fees to Internet providers as a result of the ruling — added costs that could be passed down to customers.
Brooks, 32, ditched cable television in 1999 because he only wanted to pay for the shows and content he actually consumed — an a-la-carte dream now possible online. Brooks said he thinks that last week’s ruling is an opportunity for a money grab by cable companies looking to monetize online content like streaming TV shows.
Alexander Grgurich, a 27-year-old business lead for Fresk Interactive, said the decision could mean a significant disadvantage for small businesses unable to pay Internet service providers for the same speed of service that bigger companies could afford.
The Internet continues to become increasingly important in the daily lives of people in Iowa and elsewhere, Grgurich said, and needs to have balanced regulation.
“I think there’s a reason why government should keep certain things protected and open,” he said.
“I don’t want to compare the Internet to drinking water. But it’s access to information — kind of a vital need.”
Grgurich also voiced uneasiness with the officials and decision-makers in Washington shaping Internet regulation. Too often, he said, officials like former FCC Chairman Michael Powell leave government posts to work for industry lobbying groups.
“It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just the way business is done,” Grgurich said. “I’ve got a lot of problems with the way that ruling came down.”