The Internet.  The Information Superhighway.  A complex the system that seems to be constantly re-inventing every aspect of our world.  And for years the drive has been to make Internet access cheaper and faster.  But suddenly we’re hitting a wall propped up by corporate greed that threatens the neutrality that made the Internet what it is today.  Remember back in the days when everyone had AOL dial-up and your access was limited by a monthly allotment of minutes.  Then came broadband and suddenly the Internet became faster and access was 24/7 for one price.  But now thanks to data caps we’re back to where we were in the mid 1990s.  Except now Internet access is limited by the number of bytes downloaded versus the number of minutes spent online.  Welcome to a world of stymied innovation and higher costs for consumers.  Bandwidth caps are worse than minute caps because people can easily measure how many minutes they’ve been online.  Have a feel for how many bytes you downloaded is damn near impossible.  The fundamental issue is that everything (telephone calls, music, books, movies, television) can be sent over the Internet in digital packets that are agnostics of the delivery medium.  In other words, there are no more middle men, content creator can sell direct to content consumer.  This has all the businesses that have built up their value as “middle men” or distributors.  And they are now scared shitless.  There livelihood is threatened.  But if you are true American capitalist you have to welcome this.  Because the key to American capitalistic success is innovation and progress.  When is the last time you saw someone going around refilling streetlamps?  Yup.  There was once a job where you were paid to put fuel in streetlamps.  But electricity came along and made that job obsolete.  The Internet makes middle men obsolete.

So is it all doom and gloom with bandwidth caps?  Possibly.  But I feel that bandwidth caps could be short lived.  Think about our national highway infrastructure.  We pay taxes.  Tax money gets put out on contract to build and maintain said roads.  Regardless of how much you drive or how little, or what type of car you drive.  And aside state road and bridge tolls, you don’t pay for “highway access” direct. It is paid for through taxes.  So how can we apply this concept to the Internet?

In the end, the people that are really hurt by bandwidth caps are businesses.  Consumers will be reluctant to pay for services like Netflix and Hulu is they are scared about exceeding bandwidth caps and having to pay a lot extra.  What if, like our national highways, we turn shift where the money comes from to maintain the “digital highway”.  I would recommend a centralized, non-government, non-profit organization serve the role of government.  This organization would collect from every business that does business via the Internet a “tax” that is put towards paying the Internet access for the populace.  Now the people would have unlimited access to the Internet with a minimal, if any, monthly access fee.  By making purchases on the Internet, the people pay the tax fee, indirectly.  So for example, $2 fee on your Netflix account each month and a $2 fee on your Hulu account goes to paying for you free and unlimited Internet access.  Hulu and Netflix pass that $2 to the aforementioned centralized non-profit organization tasked with maintaining the infrastructure.  The Comcast’s of the world still exist. but instead of doing business with individual consumers, they do business with the centralized non-profit.  Business to business negotiations tend to result in more cost effective deals.  Whereas business to consumers, with respect to Internet and cell phone service, tends to result in consumers getting the shaft.

It may not work and it may not be ideal.  But we need to find ways to preserve net neutrality and eliminate bandwidth caps.  As we come out of the economic doldrums we are currently in, the Internet will be front and center in leading the recovery.  To have it stymied with caps and anti-consumer restrictions is just going to prolong the global economic misery.