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Rush to judgment rarely beneficial

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I wish I could be one of those people who immediately form a firm opinion when major news occurs. Or maybe I don't.

The FCC announcement Wednesday that it might allow – is proposing – hopes to permit -- a "fast lane" for Internet content providers willing to pay extra brought instant reaction. Never mind that it's a complicated issue. And nuanced. And not even approved yet.

The reaction was predictable: It's great! No, it's terrible. It's the end of the world for consumers and start-up businesses! No, it will open up worlds of opportunity for both. Innovation will be smothered! No, this is just what's needed.

It's just about money! No, it's all about the money.

Really, it's about the money -- as in, who will pay for the improvements and services we all want from the network that brings us our e-commerce sites, streaming TV shows and cat videos.

As an unnamed "top cable executive" told the Wall Street Journal last week, ""Somebody has to pay for this, and if they weren't going to let companies pay for enhanced transport and delivery … it just seemed like this was going to come back to the consumer."

For a view from the other side, there's Eric Klinker, chief executive of BitTorrent Inc., which was described by the New York Times as "a popular Internet technology for people to swap digital movies or other content." In other words, a competitor to companies like Comcast and Verizon.

"For technologists and entrepreneurs alike this is a worst-case scenario," Klinker said, "creating a fast lane for those that can afford it is by its very definition discrimination."

One point everyone does seem to agree on is the part of the proposal where the FCC says it will make everything fine by ensuring the extra fees would be "commercially reasonable" -- a vague term, if there ever was one -- and that the FCC would determine that on a case-by-case basis.

Run for the hills!

In the end, as data use goes up and bandwidth clogs, end users are going to pay – with or without these rules. Providers already offer faster service upgrades, for a price. If the FCC prevails, analysts note, we could end up paying more on both ends -- for faster service and for the content as that fast-lane fee is passed along.

So I guess I am one of those people with an instant and firm opinion after all: Whatever the FCC does, not everyone will be happy and it won't bring fees down. And one way or another, it's bound to affect your business. The only question is how.

Oh – and if these rules go through, someone will sue. After all, it was a ruling in a suit brought by Verizon that opened the door to the FCC's new proposals.

But what do I know?

The week ahead

Speaking of utilities (is broadband a utility? Brazil thinks so.), up this week is our annual Inside Business focus on energy issues. The trend is definitely back to the future, as the solar sector dims and steam – a 19th-century technology – continues to thrive in the 21st. The lists cover energy consultants and alternative energy companies.

Find the week's networking opportunities here.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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