Sunday, November 16, 2008

SSC #82 Net Neutrality

Many of you have probably heard the term "Net Neutrality" bandied about on the news lately.  A lot of people seem to be talking about it, but not many are showing signs that they really understand what it is all about.

Net Neutrality is a concept that the internet should be nothing more than a set of "dumb pipes" that transfer data from one point to another.  They should not give precedence to one transfer over another, and that the internet should not block traffic or deliberately slow traffic going across it. 

This is how the internet works as of right now, and in the past.

At odds with this concept are the companies who collectively provide internet service to all of us.  Complaining of network congestion and an inability to reliably offer promised speeds to their customers, they claim that giving some traffic preferential treatment over other traffic is not only desirable, but necessary.

If Network Neutrality is not upheld, there could be many consequences as a result of its downfall.  ISPs could begin to offer tiered priority schemes to different content providers.  This would, for instance, allow companies offering paid services (such as Netflix's movie streaming service) to gain a higher priority over the video conference you're having with your sister in Oregon.   It wouldn't just stop at legitimate services like Netflix though.  It would be something that would be offered to any company paying the price.  Full motion video advertisements would begin loading faster than the text based web pages on which they resided.

 And as a result, our collective bandwidth would suffer. 

This also means that any new high-bandwidth services starting up that couldn't afford the internet fast lane would hardly be able to compete since their service would appear choppy and slow.

Another possible outcome would be that you wouldn't necessarily be able to do wherever you want to with your internet connection.  You may have to pay one amount for web browsing, and another amount of money for chat or email.  Transferring files or encrypted data may be something else entirely.

Really there's no way of knowing how it would eventually end up.  But one thing is for sure... once Net Neutrality is broken, things will only get worse for the end user.

While I understand that it is a hard task to manage a congested network, the answer lies not in abolishing Net Neutrality.  The answer lies in abolishing spam (which accounts for far too much of internet traffic) and in adopting new faster technologies.

In America we have the privilege of having one of the first country-wide information networks.  And while this might be a mark of pride for some, when you think about it, its one of the things that is holding us back.  Countries that did not build their information networks until recently got to take advantage of newer and better technologies that did not exist when our own was built.

Many technologies have come to light since our nation's network was built.  But either by overbearing regulation or simple ignorance, they never seem to manifest for our use.

One thing that is for sure is that Net Neutrality is something that we should all keep an eye on.  It is the internet equivalent of free speech.  While the corporations may own the networks, they were paid for using our monthly service subscriptions.  And the corporations should keep in mind that if they take away the freedom that makes the internet what it is, they'll find a lot of those subscriptions canceled.  Mine included.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

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