German Chancellor Angela Merkel has laid out her vision for the future of the internet, and net neutrality proponents won't be pleased. In comments on Thursday in Berlin, Merkel argued for a two-lane internet. One lane for "special," high priority service, and another that's meant to resemble the internet as it exists today.
While supporters of net neutrality argue that it is key to the continued growth of the internet, Merkel believes just the opposite. She argues that fast lanes are necessary for the development of new, advanced uses of the internet, like telemedicine or driverless cars. According to Merkel, without guaranteed, fast-access internet connections, such innovations won't come to market.
Can you have a fast lane and maintain net neutrality?
It's not clear how such a two-lane system would be implemented or regulated. For instance, it's unknown if there would be limits on what sort of companies could pay for access to fast-lane internet. A report from Frankfurter Allgemeine cites sources inside the German government who say that on-demand internet video streaming services would be among the companies that would be able to pay for access for high-speed service.
The European Union currently mandates true net neutrality, though discussions have been underway for the future of internet regulation. Merkel believes that her position is a middle ground, but the idea that the general traffic lane will operate under net neutrality depends entirely on how much bandwidth it receives from internet providers. If the main traffic lane isn't fast, and any company can opt for fast-lane access, companies will likely find it necessary to pay up for direct access just to compete — the exact opposite of net neutrality.