Do Broadband Providers Actually Do Any Real Innovation?

The kind of “innovation” your Internet service provider (ISP) is fighting so passionately to protect won’t lead to faster or better service, says Ryan Singel at Wired. To ISPs, innovation means finding ways to generate more profit without making further investments in infrastructure. Yeah, it’s a deliberately provocative statement, but take a look at the list he provides for what ISPs have done to innovate in recent years versus what other companies have done.

First, think of all the Internet-related services and applications that other companies have provided: search engines, social networks, web-based email and productivity applications, online video like YouTube and Hulu, online encyclopedias, and crowdsourced product and business review websites.

Now compare that to what the ISP industry has provided: intercepting mistyped URLs in order to serve ads, forcing installation software on customers that interferes with online access, and selling access to customer online behavior to advertisers.

Singel writes,

The dirty secret of ISPs is that even as broadband usage on their networks continues to increase 30 to 40 percent a year, their annual costs for shipping data onto and off the net’s main pipes continues to fall.

The problem isn’t the cost of shipping data.

The problem is that the large ISPs answer to Wall Street and instead of planning and investing for abundance, they prefer to spend their time thinking of ways to extract more money from customers without having to invest significantly in future-proof infrastructure.

“You Don’t Want ISPs to Innovate” [Wired]