Tom McInerneys Guba is one of those companies that AT&T said is getting a “free ride.” Guba has deals with Sony and Warner Bros. to deliver movies to customers over the Internet and, as a result, demands a lot of bandwidth. Its companies such as his that AT&T would like to charge extra to serve.
At this juncture in the net neutrality debate, McInerney, co-founder and CEO of the San Francisco company, can only guess at the potential side effects of any changes. However, he doesnt like his guesses.
In fact, McInerney wonders if something more sinister might be afoot if AT&T or another provider were able to use its network to unfairly compete against Guba. “If AT&T launches a competing movie service and prices it lower than Guba,” he said, “they could make pricing control viewership.”
“Where it gets dangerous is when you have one pipe into the home— when either the cable or phone company can lock you into service terms that are long and start charging variable-use fees that have the effect of controlling what sites you go to,” he said.
However, McInerney isnt pining for a return to the days of regulated telecommunications that some net neutrality proponents seem to be pushing. He said such control could also lead to trouble.
“A regulatory effort would be chilling,” said McInerney. “I built our first server from parts that I bought on the kitchen floor.”
He said startups such as Guba can thrive only in an environment with minimal regulations. If a company started controlling what he can connect to on the Internet, the results could be serious, he said.
While McInerney doesnt want the regulation that some net neutrality advocates are pushing for, he wonders whether existing remedies from the likes of the Federal Communications Commission are enough to protect against predatory practices on the part of larger companies. “You only want the law to come into play when theres a problem,” he said.
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