taxing internet's heavy users

Kevin Martin, the FCC Chairman who I have the smallest of crushes on - no, not because of his boyish good looks (which don't hurt), but because of his ability to partially satisfy and disatisfy the left and right at all times (the sign of a true moderate) - has done it again: proposed a lukewarm intervention that has no one thrilled or particularly upset.

He's going after Comcast, one of the internet's "pipelines," for intentionally slowing down customers from sharing mega-digital files - but with no guns ablaring (he's not proposing a fine). It looks like Comcast even knows that it did a no-no and has already pretty much caved.

Martin's cautious approach gives hope to "net neutrality" folk who think the web should remain an open highway - with users and providers freely exchanging digital bits without any interference of tolls or priviliged "fast lanes." 

Yet the FCC is far from declaring total "net neutrality" - which would bar the pipelines from creating any programs to limit or differentially charge for internet access.

That's probably a good thing. The telecoms are complaining that, with all the video and audio streaming back and forth, their pipelines are getting strained and so users with heavy online video habits are clogging up the digital lines for the rest of us. 

One way telecoms may try to ease up on cloggage is by charging heavy internet users more; kind of like with cell plans, where consumers can choose their plans depending on how much they surf and how digital-intensive their surfing is.

Sounds like a good plan to me. The internet should be an open source with free, unfettered access - but as sheep herders know there is such a thing as a "crisis of the commons," where overuse of a common good can lead to a crappy common good for us all (yelling at our computer as simple webpages take forever to download, etc.). One way to do that is to charge heavier users for the privilege - possibly discouraging excessive use while also forcing them to pay for better upkeep of the pipelines.

Of course the FCC and Congress should keep a look out to make sure the telecoms are making interventions to fairly help out all users - and not to privilege some over others. Let's hope our cutie-pie keeps that in mind.