No, ESPN Still Isn't Breaking Imagined 'Reverse Net Neutrality' Concept
from the once-more-with-feeling dept
So, once again, it bears repeating: a content company using the business model of its choice doesn't violate net neutrality, nor this invented concept of "reverse net neutrality." Whether ESPN's business model will be successful is another discussion; but selling access to ISPs instead of individuals really is no different than ISPs offering their customers the use of various ISP-specific portals, or offering them free anti-virus software. Does it violate net neutrality somehow that, say, Verizon FIOS subscribers can't use AT&T U-Verse webmail? The ESPN360 scenario really is no different: it's content or a service that the ISP has licensed and is offering to its subscribers in hopes of gaining some competitive advantage over its rivals.
ESPN is being accused of "effectively [giving] the middle finger to net neutrality," but really, it's the total opposite. The concern with net neutrality is that content providers would have to pay ISPs so that ISP customers could access their content. What's happening here is that ESPN's convinced ISPs to pony up so that their subscribers can access its content. The ISPs are enabling access to content they've paid for, not blocking access to content from providers who won't pay. That's a tacit admission on the part of the ISPs that their networks are only as valuable as the content they can access. By enabling access to more content, they've enhanced the value of their networks. Imagine if Google took this approach and went to ISPs demanding payment, instead of the other way around. ISPs would very quickly figure out that impeding their customers' access to content -- the entire crux of the net neutrality argument -- will kill them in the marketplace. ESPN's gotten its ISP customers to admit that ensuring users can access as much content as possible enhances the value of their networks, and if anything, that affirms the principles of network neutrality.