WTFudge is Net Neutrality?

Happy Monday, Paleoposse!


First of all, let me apologize for missing a blog post last week.  Work is hectic, but that’s no excuse!


Secondly, let me apologize in advance for today’s post, for it is sure to bore some of you (and there are no pictures).


Today’s post is about Net Neutrality: What it means, and why you should care.


As the venerable Senator Ted Stevens once said (before he was found guilty of being a comic-book villain),


The Internet is a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.


This statement forms the basis of the main problem with Net Neutrality: No one understands it. Worst of all, the people who are in charge of regulating it understand it LEAST. So let me go ahead and edu-muh-cate you.


Net Neutrality is the idea that the Internet should be the same experience for a Brighthouse customer in Florida as a ComCast customer in New York.  More specifically, there should be no reason why an Internet Service Provider (ISP) should be able to provide priority access/speeds to any one network or service; and conversely, no ISP should limit the access/speeds of any one network or service either.


So here’s an example:


You and your friend, Jim, both have internet access at your respective homes.  Jim has access through Open Internet Company Inc., who supports Net Neutrality, and you have access through CramCast, who does not.


Jim says, “Hey I found this really cool site that helps you automate your monthly bills, check it out at [CoolSite]”
You say, “Cool! I need something like that, because this similar tool that CramCast provides really sucks.”


So you click the link to [CoolSite], and try to go to the site… but instead, CramCast redirects you to their own tool with a message that reads “Why would you want to use any tool but ours? It is FREE, after-all.”


And try as you might, CramCast simply will not let you access [CoolSite], simply because it is a competitor to a tool that CramCast offers.


Other examples might include:
  • CramCast selling priority access to specific companies, such as search engines, so that if you try to search on, everything is really slow and crappy…but if you try to search with a “paid provider”, like [SuperSearch!], everything loads very quickly.
  • CramCast selectively blocking websites which display negative opinions of CramCast.
  • CramCast throttling the speed of NetFlix movies, in an attempt to get people to switch to CramCast’s own video streaming service.


Of course, there are two sides to every story, and Net Neutrality is no exception.  There are legitimate reasons why an ISP might want to “shape traffic” on their network, such as to limit the effect of BitTorrent downloads (which use a massive # of simultaneous connections), or throttle YouTube videos (which can make up 50% of web traffic on a network at any given time).


However most of the “legitimate reasons” could be solved with a simple bandwidth upgrade, and in the United States, we are in desperate need of a bandwidth upgrade.  While rural Australia complains of “slow” 30Mbps connections which cost them 20$ a month, our ISP’s refuse to provide 20Mbps connections for any less than 60$ per month.  Why? Becase they can.


And if we don’t fight back against the opponents of Net Neutrality, the ISP’s will continue to limit the technological advancement of the United States, and steal your money in the process.


So what can we do.
  • First, don’ trust my words – go study up on the issue yourself.  Wikipedia is a good place to start.
  • Second, go look up the websites of your local congressmen, and see if they have a section of the website devoted to Net Neutrality.  If they do, does it appear that they actually understand the issue?  If they do, send them an email showing your support.  If they don’t, send them an email explaining to them what Net Neutrality is, and why it’s important.


If you do this, let me know what your results are! I’d be really interested to find out!


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