Much of the quest for developing a nationwide broadband plan has centered on ubiquitous deployment and online speeds, some arguing for speeds well over 100 mbps. Other policy wonks have argued that we need more competitors and still others want lower prices. In response to one Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) attempt to slowdown bandwidth hogs and manage network congestion, the FCC responded by considering limits on ISP’s management of traffic, leading ISPs to point out that this would jeopardize online reliability, security and privacy, making their networks more subject to spam and malicious attacks. Many web centric firms, who store and track consumer browsing from site to site, have been strong supporters of regulations on ISPs, while resisting privacy regulations on themselves by arguing that this would severely reduce web content.
Last month, we conducted an online survey of readers and asked the following question: If you could improve one thing with the Internet today, what would it be?
1) Faster speeds – 15%
2) Lower prices, more options and tiers – 41%
3) More Internet competitors – 6%
4) Better reliability, security and privacy – 36%
5) More web content – 1%
6) None of the above – 1%
While the results are not scientific (305 responses), they provide some insights into the importance that consumers place on these policy positions. Two choices jump to the top — consumers want lower prices and better reliability, security and privacy. These results stress that Internet public policies must encourage network investment, stay away from policies that would raise prices for average and low-end online users, and avoid limitations on network management. Consumers do not consider having more web content or having more competitors as a priority. In summary, consumers do not have the same concerns as those calling for increased regulations of the Internet. Maybe it is time for policymakers to refocus on consumers.