Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Net Neutrality Gets Kicked In The Junk

Congratulations former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the Internet might be a tube after all! How did this happen? Well, yesterday an appellate court said that the FCC can’t tell Comcast that they can’t prioritize the data that goes across their network.

One more time without the double negative: the government cannot stop service providers from prioritizing what data moves across their network.

So what does this mean in the grand scheme of things?

1) The Internet Does Not Belong To The Public

People always make jokes about who owns the Internet, but now we know at least one group that doesn’t own it: you and me. Prior to this decision, one could have argued that the Information Super Highway was sort of like a regular highway in that we all pay for it and we all get to use it.

Now, according to this ruling, the Internet is more like a complex toll road. Comcast said they built it and they maintain it; thus, they have the right to say what happens on their network. Not only are they the traffic cop, they are able to decide what is more important how fast you and I can get there.

2) Destination Paradox

So, what’s going to be slowed down? Comcast and the other Internet service providers (ISP) keep telling the public that all this illegal file sharing moving across their network is slowing down their “good users” who are just trying to get the latest podcasts and watch a clip on YouTube. Of course, that’s really about 1% of the situation.

The reality is that the content on the Internet directly competes with most of the cable company’s product offerings and they now have a license to act like the Chinese Government and block what they don’t like. Let’s look at Skype as an example. About 5 years ago your cable company started offering phone service over their network. While they do a very good job of bundling phone service with their other products, people are not using it as much as they like. What are they using instead? Primarily, they’re using their cell phones. Secondarily, they are using Skype. And why not? It can be free, and it has video chat, which the cable companies do not have. Of course, things like video chat are huge bandwidth hogs on the ISP’s network.

So, here’s the deal. Now that an ISP can decide what is more important, they can say scram to Skype and put it and its users in the slow lane and render it useless. They are then hoping that in the short term this will force people to use the phone lines they bought from them (instant revenue) and in the long term use a Skype like service that the ISP will SELL TO THEIR USERS.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. Your Internet is competing with their cable TV programming too much. Say goodbye to YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix streaming. They sold you a DVR to watch what you want when you want, and now they want you to use it. They need you to watch TV and see the ads that they sell time for. They don’t want you to go on Netflix when you can subscribe to HBO or get an OnDemand movie. Yes, you give them at least $100 bucks a month for Internet and cable, but that’s not enough for them. They spend a lot of money to make shitty commercials shittier.

Can it get any worse? YES IT CAN! ISPs are mad that you use Gmail, Yahoo, or MSN for your email and not their service. Their customers are denying them their much-deserved revenue. So, those are going to be throttled back too.

But, how can they slow down email, isn’t it mostly text? Actually, email is the primary file-sharing venue. You may not use it to get music and movies, but you do send things like photos. You send so many photos that the number of photos shared over email exponentially dwarfs that of photo sharing sites like Picasa, Flickr and even Snapfish. Plus, if you’re an idiot like me and signed up for a ton of newsletters, you get tons of rich media emails and this stuff adds to the congestion.

The cable company’s solution is simple: use our email system and get it nice and fast. Oh, by the way, they will charge us for this too.


Mark Brandau said...

I think our only hope for net neutrality is that a giant company like Google has enough clout to fight ISPs like Comcast either in the court of public opinion or the court of law.

LiveOnPurpose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...


It is a fact that Obi Wan Kenobi is our only hope.