Why 2014 Could Be the Most Important Year in the History of the Internet

The two biggest cable providers in America could soon become one entity, but that's just one of the big stories threatening to reshape The Information Age. Here's why 2014 could mark the death of the Internet.

Mar 15, 2014 at 11:00AM

Screen Shot

Source: comcast.com

The war for the Internet has never been hotter. The agreed upon merger of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable is just one of the huge stories that has dominated the news cycle in recent weeks. Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) ongoing feud with Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) has been heating up alongside claims that the communications company is throttling data transfers from the video-streaming giant. Making the picture even more hectic, Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) looks to be expanding its Fiber ventures as a reaction to power grabs from the titans of telecom. In many respects, there has never been a more pivotal moment in the information age.

The beginning of the end
2014 kicked off with an appeals court ruling that dealt a tremendous blow to the net neutrality movement supported by companies like Google and Netflix and opposed by telecom companies and mobile carriers. Verizon received a favorable ruling in its case against the FCC, successfully abolishing the Open Internet Order and instantaneously reworking the fundamental principles that govern the web. ISPs are now able to block user access to sites as they see fit and regulate the speed at which users access materials online.   

A merger for the ages
The effects of the $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner merger are bound to trickle down to multiple industries. If the deal goes through, it looks to spur a series of negotiations between all manner of cable companies and the FCC and other government divisions. It will also mean big things for the future of digital content distribution. The end of net neutrality and the consolidation of power in telecom has substantially altered the dynamics between content providers and ISPs.

Screen Shot

Source: netflix.com

Netflix has already struck a new deal with Comcast to ensure that its users have quality access to its streams. Comcast has also blocked access to the recently released HBOGO app on Sony's PlayStation 3 gaming console. 

Busting a cap
The announcement of a plan to merge the two biggest telecom providers in America came on the heels of the news that Comcast was slowly expanding data cap trials in cities like Memphis and Atlanta. Affected subscribers are subject to a 300 gigabyte monthly limit, with $10 charged for the use of each additional 50 gigabytes. Time Warner Cable subscribers are currently shielded from data usage caps, but the completion of the merger with Comcast would almost certainly see new customers introduced to "trials." These types of usage restrictions could be used to deter those who might seek to cut the cord.  

Anticompetitive, pro-consumer, or both?
It's hard to imagine a Comcast-Warner merger being good for competition and the advancement of the Internet, but some are saying that may very well be the case. The deal, which will have to be defended from claims of "Monopoly" in an antitrust case, could spur competitors to improve their offerings and trigger a favorable reworking of FCC standards.

Is fiber the future?
Following the announcement of the potential megamerger, Google revealed plans to expand its Fiber offerings. The company will bring its ultra-fast Internet to 34 new cities, including some that are subject to Comcast's data cap trials.

There are territorial deals in place that make expanding Fiber difficult, but the service provides an increasing foothold in a sector where Google needs to have influence. The YouTube platform will be essential for the 4K push that will eventually make its way to gaming. Fifteen years after the company's founding, Google is still the future of the Internet.

Google debuts new ISP rating system
Google's YouTube platform will be one of the most important factors in shaping the future of the Internet. YouTube and Netflix are said to account for half of North American peak Internet traffic, and Google's video streaming service is still growing at a rapid clip. The rising prominence of the video site has continued despite issues with buffering and picture quality, with both Google and the ISPs blaming the opposite party for where the root of these problems lies.

Screen Shot

Source: google.com

Now, the blame game is escalating with the introduction of Google's new rating scale that grades ISPs based on YouTube performance. Those that meet Google's newly established criteria will receive the prize of being "YouTube HD Verified."

A series of interconnected power grabs
2014 isn't even a quarter over, but it is already certain to go down as one of the most important and transformative years in the history of the Internet. The rules of The Information Age are shifting rapidly and the companies at its forefront are scrambling to ensure that they receive favorable tilts amid shifting balances of power. The floodgates have been opened. By the end of the year, the big stories currently making waves could be summed up as little more than a trickle.  

Cable is dying and now is the time to claim your inheritance...
The telecom giants will go down swinging, but they can only delay the inevitable. You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 

Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of GameStop, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers