My latest column for Locus magazine is “Net Neutrality for Writers: It’s All About the Leverage,” a piece about the risks to artists of allowing network carriers to demand bribes for “premium carriage” of our content.
Not that the telcos really care about this. Art, schmart. They just want to get paid, and paid, and paid. First they get paid when a company like Google buys a heptillion dollars’ worth of Internet access for a service like YouTube. Then they get your $10-$80/month for your home broadband. Then they get paid a third time by charging Google to send bits to your broadband link.
But the entertainment giants aren’t all that upset by the idea of having to pay twice to access their audience. For one thing, they can afford it. That’s what the ‘‘giant’’ in ‘‘entertainment giant’’ means. But more importantly, that’s how they’ve always done it. Fanning out a horde of business-development gladhanders to sort out the details of distribution deals with disparate channel operators around the world is second nature for them. There’s a floor of their corporate headquarters devoted to this kind of thing. They’ve got their own annual picnic and everything.
Two-gals-in-a-garage do not have this asset. They have two gals. They have a garage. If Net Neutrality is clobbered the way the telcos hope it will be, the next Web or YouTube won’t come from disruptive inventors in a garage; it will come from the corporate labs at one of the five big media consortia or one of a handful of phone and cable companies. It will be sold as a ‘‘premium’’ service, and it won’t upset anyone’s multi-million-dollar status quo.