Participated in a panel at ALA last Saturday:
“Hiding in Plain Cite: The Growing Importance of Content Neutrality in Library Discovery Services”
Roger Schonfeld served as moderator. Joining me on the panel was Lisa O’Hara, University of Manitoba; Todd Carpenter, Executive Director of NISO; and Amira Aaron, Northeastern University.
One of the questions I took the lead on was, “What does Content Neutrality Mean to You?” Here’s my response:
I’m sure most have heard the phrase “net neutrality” — a network model that says bandwidth providers should treat all data that moves across their network in the same way. It is certainly true that many ISPs are just in the bit-moving business..providing network access..but a smaller percentage also provide content. It’s that vertical integration (meaning significant parts of the supply chain fall under the same owner) that gives rise to trouble.
For example, in a net-netural world:
- Comcast as an access provider shouldn’t shape traffic in such a way that Netflix video streams end up slower than content flowing from Comcast’s own Xfinity platform.
- Verizon shouldn’t count Amazon video streams against a user’s data allowance while exempting the same user from cap charges on a FIOS video stream.
“Content neutrality” is a similar idea. Our “access provider” in this instance is the discovery platform vendor. The analogs to traffic shaping or billing distortions occur instead around the metadata that’s being searched to “discover” relevant content. As with ISPs and net neutrality, there are some companies that just provide a discovery platform and others that are also in the content business. As before, vertical integration and perceptions of competitive advantage are problem incubators.