Chaotic Neutral Net

Net Neutrality is hip these days.  This day in fact. It’s quite contentious. I don’t want to act hipster, but I thought it was cool before it was all meme’d out and drinking kombucha. But really, having officially spent more of my life with the Interweb than without, this issue was on my radar early.

By last count I had no less than 392 nieces and nephews and cousins.  Make no doubt about it, my family likes to make more family. I am not ashamed of this.  It’s a fact of life, so I make the best of it.  If we look statistically at the make-up of political leanings in the United States today, we see that there is a pretty good chance that I am related to someone of seemingly contradictory political persuasion. This is a fact. It wasn’t but last week that some highly satirical, but kind of funny, conservative cartoons appears from one of them.

har har

Of course, this being for quick consumption and to trigger the anti-Obama crowd, it’s a little weak on real information. For instance, it’s complete BS. Thinking that POTUS spear headed this idea, as much as he’d probably like that, its untrue.

Still a Series of Tubes.

It’s not a big truck, and we know this because as far back as 2006-7, we were talking about it. The fear was we have a finite amount of bandwidth, we are using more, we (meaning your ISP by way of your elected official), need to be able to move traffic as we wish, in the order we wish, for the price we wish. Or no more lolcats, Mr. and Mrs. 2007. No more Myspace:

“Wall Street will finance new Telco and cable fiber optic projects, but only with some reasonable hope of a profit. And that is what net neutrality could squelch. Google, for example, has guaranteed $900 million in advertising revenue to Myspace and paid Dell $1 billion to install Google search boxes on its computers; YouTube partnered with Verizon Wireless; Myspace signed its own content deal with Cingular. But these kinds of preferential partnerships, where content and conduit are integrated to varying degrees — and which are ubiquitous in almost every industry — could be outlawed under net neutrality.”

And yet, fast forward to 2014 and all the major players, yes even the mighty Myspace, is a proponent of Net Neutrality, as explained in this exquisitely confusing titled story:

“The Commission’s long-standing commitment and actions undertaken to protect the open internet are a central reason why the internet remains an engine of entrepreneurship and economic growth,” the group writes. “This Commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets.”

So, if Net Neutrality is such a detriment to the industry, why does it betray its feelings?  It doesn’t because the industry works in a closed system with few players.

Sure there are back bone carriers and middlemen, but these companies like Amazon don’t want their eyes, they want your eyes, and the gate keepers to them are AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.  With exceptions for Time-Warner and CenturyLink you have one, maybe 2 choices at your home.  Don’t like it?  You cannot “vote” with your wallet. Your kids need it, your business needs it.

If allowed to, this local duopoly, using infrastructure partially paid for by tax dollars, can and will, manipulate your data.  Maybe they don’t like Netflix and decide to throttle them.  Maybe you decide to blame Netflix for that and move to Hulu? Maybe Netflix could have voted with their wallet and used the Free Market to find another provider?  Nope.

If this was the Wild West, where I could string a cable and call myself an ISP when I found an under-served population, maybe then the “Free Market” would find some correction.  But this isn’t the Wild West.  These are municipalities, these are franchise agreements.  These are ISPs preventing municipalities from creating their own municipal broadband by threatening to sue.  But there is no perfect solution, because the FCC could mess it up too.

By keeping an eye on the Telecommunications industry, we don’t have to stifle their profits.  But we can’t be so haphazard as to let them game the system that is intrinsic to our development as a country, civilization and planet.  We have to ensure connectivity, choice and a minimum of service, just like we do for water, electricity and telephone.

We are caught between no voice and no choice and no over-site one side, and a government that intensely wants to listen to our sexting on the other.  And this is where we have to be engaged. We should be able to live somewhere in the middle without our lives tipping into the extreme. This means being skeptical of the private sector and the public. This is how I try to live my life politically, too.

 

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