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  • Newsletter Issue #649: The Other Side of Net Neutrality

    May 7th, 2012

    The topic of net neutrality is surprisingly divisive. At its core, it means that your ISP shouldn't be allowed to prioritize traffic on their Internet pipes to favor big companies who pay for special access. All Internet content should be available on an equal basis to subscribers to those services. That was the dream of the creators of the Internet.

    Certainly, the benefits of net neutrality are clear. If a big content provider or merchandiser can just pay off the ISP, it means that their sites will load faster. If they load faster, they will get more of your business. Surveys demonstrate that, even if a site is just a few tenths of a second slower, that alone can mean lost business, because impatient customers will simply go elsewhere. This is one of the reasons, by the way, that we've signed up with CloudFlare, a content distribution service, so we can take advantage of the power of their worldwide server network and play with the big boys.

    While net neutrality seems so simple and logical, it is also a political football. Some opponents of net neutrality want you to believe that it's some sort of crafty scheme to allow a government, particularly in the U.S., to somehow control the Internet. I won't attempt to explain how they came to such a silly conclusion, because it just doesn't make any sense.

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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #649: The Other Side of Net Neutrality”

    1. dfs says:

      Last night, in response to Gene's weekend column, I pointed out that there are other nations (France, Japan, S. Korea) with much better internet services than ours because their governments have poured a lot of money into their development, and I suggested that, like space exploration, creating a first-rate internet infrastructure capable of handling this country's bandwidth demands might be a bigger job than private industry can do on its own. To my amazement, these remarks kicked off a totally unexpected and heated debate about political ideologies, a small demonstration of how impossible it is to achieve anything, or even have a reasonable discussion, in our present political climate. Well, okay, let's assume that in present America a political solution to any significant problem is out of reach. What then? Well, I remember back in the 19th century we had a situation in which nearly every town in the country was operating on its own local time, a completely crazy situation that the politicians were unable or unwilling to fix. In what must be the most benign example of monopolistic control in history the railroads, who desperately needed a sensible method of telling time in order to operate their schedules, got sick of the impasse and imposed the system of time zones we still use today. The politicians, who had nothing positive to contribute, were cut entirely out of the loop. Well, in the same spirit I note that we have a number of corporations that have a vested interest in fast internet operation with plenty of bandwidth. Such corporations include (but probably aren't limited to) those who distribute media over the internet in large volume, such as Apple, Amazon, and Netflix, and any company that operates a Cloud scheme (and there seem to be more of these every day). These companies, not coincidentally, are the very ones which have done the most to create our ever-expanding hunger for bandwidth, placing a strain on the carriers' infrastructures that they can't seem to handle. The kind of corporations I mean have a vested interest in getting their products and services into the hands of the end consumer in an efficient way, and if our present situation continues to worsen, they are going to be confronted with a huge bottleneck that will impede their operations and maybe hurt their bottom lines. The time may come when these corporations will find it in their best interests to partner with the carrier corporations, perhaps to the extent of helping finance their infrastructure expansion, or even create a completely new infrastructure of their own by collaborating in setting up some kind of carrier operation of their own which is not mired down, in terms of its history, its business model, and its legal entanglements, by being rooted in the telephone industry. And the philosophy of such an outfit ought to be to conduct its business in such a way as to give the Federal government the least possible opportunity to interfere with its operation.

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